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CROSS-CHANNEL 




UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 

The European Theater of Operations 
CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 

by 

Gordon A. Harrison 




J MILITARY 1NSTBVCTK3N 



CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY 
UNITED STATES ARMY 
WASHINGTON, D.C., 1993 



Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 51-61669 



First Printed 1951— CMH Pub 7-4-1 



For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office 
Washington, D.C. 20402 



UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 
Kent Roberts Greenfield, General Editor 



A dvisory 

James P. Baxter 
President, Williams College 
Henry S. Commager 
Columbia University 
Douglas S. Freeman 
Richmond News Leader 
Pendleton Herring 
Social Science Research Council 
John D. Hicks 
University of California 



Committee 

William T. Hutchinson 
University of Chicago 
S. L. A. Marshall 

Detroit News 
E. Dwight Salmon 
Amherst College 
Col. Thomas D. Stamps 
United States Military Academy 
Charles H. Taylor 
Harvard University 



Historical Division, SSUSA* 

Maj. Gen. Orlando Ward, Chief 

Chief Historian Kent Roberts Greenfield 

Chief, World War II Group Col. Allison R. Hartman* * 

Editor-in-Chief Hugh Corbett 

Chief Cartographer Wsevolod Aglaimoff 

•Redesignated Office of the Chief of Military History, 28 March 1950. 
* 'Succeeded by Col. Thomas J. Sands, 3 March 4950. 



iii 



. . . to Those Who Served 



Foreword 



Cross-Channel Attack is one of approximately a hundred volumes which 
the Department of the Army intends to publish regarding its part in World 
War II. This particular volume deals with the planning and the difficulties en- 
countered incident to the mounting of the largest amphibious assault ever 
undertaken in military history. Much of the information it contains has not 
heretofore been a matter of public knowledge. For example, light is for the 
first time thrown upon the enemy's conflicting theories of defense against 
Allied air superiority and upon his paucity of first-class troops. This informa- 
tion is derived from the official records of the Wehrmacht and from signed 
statements of German participants. Many of the difficulties encountered in the 
planning, as well as in the execution stage of the operation, are here described 
to the public for the first time. 

Where this history deals with the struggle ashore, it clearly illustrates the 
necessity for commanders to adjust their thinking to the means at hand, the 
terrain, and the influence of new weapons. It reiterates the indispensability of 
constant training in how to get order out of the confusion which is forever 
present upon the battlefield. It brings to mind in this connection the means 
used by a football team for meeting the problems of overcoming opposition on 
the playing field. The plays devised and the techniques used to attain its ends 
must be practiced again and again. Frequently it is the loss of effective direc- 
tion of small units, incident to the battle's toll, which makes for failure rather 
than success. 

Whether the reader approaches the book with the justified pride that he 
was a member or supporter of the winning team, or whether he reads to learn, 
is a matter for him to decide. The victor tends to prepare to win the next war 
with the same means and methods with which he won the last. He forgets the 
difficulty of reaching decisions, the planning problems, his faltering, his un- 
preparedness. The vanquished is wont to search far afield for new and im- 
proved methods, means, and equipment. The accomplishments of those who 
fought in this period were indeed great, as were the sacrifices. But from the 
national viewpoint it would seem desirable to read this volume with the self- 
critical eye of the vanquished as well as with the pride of the victor, an ap- 
proach which the thoughtful reader will not find difficult. 

ORLANDO WARD 
Maj. Gen., U.S.A. 
Chief of Military History 

Washington, D.C. 
1 October 1950 



vii 



Introductory Note on the History of 
the European Theater of Operations 



Chronologically this volume is first in the series narrating the events of 
World War II in the European Theater of Operations. It has been preceded 
in publication by The Lorraine Campaign, which covers the operations of the 
Third Army during the autumn of 1944 and which begins some two months 
after the close of the present volume. A co-operative history of the type repre- 
sented in this series has distinct advantages but does not lend itself readily to 
the production and publication of volumes in proper chronological order. 
For this reason each volume will be designated only by title and will remain 
unnumbered. 

Cross-Channel Attack has been planned and written as the introduction to 
the history of those campaigns in 1944 and 1945 which led to the destruction 
of the German armies in the west. It provides necessary background for the 
study of all the campaigns in the European Theater of Operations. The nar- 
rative of operations ends on 1 July 1944, with the Allies firmly established in 
Normandy. The concluding chapters show the successful fruition of plans and 
preparations reaching back as far as January 1942; but the seizure.of the Nor- 
man beaches and the establishment of a lodgment area are only a beginning, a 
point of departure for the drive to the Elbe and the Baltic. Although Cross- 
Channel A Hack includes discussion of certain problems of high command and 
logistics, a more complete treatment is accorded these subjects in two volumes 
now under preparation in this series: The Supreme Command and Logistical 
Support of the Armies. 

The author of Cross-Channel Attack, Gordon A. Harrison, a former news- 
paper reporter and instructor at Harvard University, holds the Doctor of Phil- 
osophy degree from that institution. During the war he served as a historical 
officer with the Third Army, taking part in five campaigns. He joined the His- 
torical Division, Department of the Army, in 1946. 

HUGH M. COLE 
Chief, European Section 

Washington, D.C. 
1 October 1950 



viii 



Preface 



This volume, introductory to a series on the European Theater of Opera- 
tions, deals with the development of strategy and planning for the attack on 
northwest Europe in 1944 and with the first month of operations establishing 
Allied armies in France. The first seven chapters (about two-thirds) of the 
book are concerned with the prelude to the 6 June assault: the preparations 
and discussions of strategy on both the Allied and German sides from 1941 to 
1944. The remaining three chapters describe the combat operations of the 
First U. S. Army in Normandy from 6 June to 1 July 1944. This apportion- 
ment of space was deliberately made with reference to the whole European 
Theater Series, and much of the material on plans, the state of German de- 
fense, preparatory operations, has strict relevance only when viewed from the 
larger perspective. 

While attempting to set operations in northwest Europe in the framework 
of world-wide strategy, Cross-Channel Attack makes no pretense of telling the 
full story of that strategy. Other volumes under preparation by the Historical 
Division will focus on the Mediterranean and Pacific and discuss various as- 
pects of the higher direction of the war. 

It should be pointed out further that this is an American story of an Allied 
operation. It is based largely on Department of the Army records, and al- 
though these include a large number of British and Combined documents it 
has not been possible, nor was it intended, to develop in full the narrative of 
British participation. Every effort has been made to avoid a partisan viewpoint 
and to present fairly some of the critical problems of the Anglo-American 
alliance as they came into and were revealed by the cross-Channel project. 
Beyond that there is no attempt to achieve an "Allied" perspective or to 
weigh and balance American and British contributions. In the operational 
chapters British action has been summarized only when it occurred on the 
flank of First U. S. Army and materially affected American operations. 

In the narrative of American operations in Chapters VIII-X, the basic 
unit treated is the division, although in recording the fragmented battles typi- 
cal of fighting in the European theater it often becomes necessary to follow 
battalions and even companies and platoons on quasi-independent missions 
in order to describe fully what the division as a unit did. The actions are de- 
scribed in somewhat less detail than in other volumes of the series chiefly be- 
cause the Department of the Army has already published monographs cover- 
ing the period. The reader interested in greater detail will find it in [Charles 
H. Taylor] Omaha Beachhead (Washington, 1945) and [R. G. Ruppenthal] 
Utah Beach to Cherbourg (Washington, 1947). Cross-Channel Attack sum- 
marizes these two accounts with occasional corrections, additions, and reinter- 
pretations, and with entirely new German material. 

ix 



In a work based on thousands of cables, memoranda, plans, journal entries, 
etc., to have cited the source for every fact would have unduly burdened every 
page with redundant footnotes. Documentation is therefore selective, aimed 
first at citing authorities for all important or disputed facts and opinions, and 
second at providing those curious to know more with an adequate guide to 
the primary and secondary source material. 

As is the uniform practice throughout this series, German units and head- 
quarters are italicized. Exception is made for OKW and OKH which, though 
military headquarters, were also constitutional organs of the German state. 
German units are translated whenever exact English equivalents exist. The 
terms panzer, panzer grenadier, Luftwaffe, and Kampfgruppe, however, have 
been retained because they are of such common occurrence that they have 
been virtually assimilated at least into military English. 

Cross-Channel Attack is in a real sense the product of co-operative enter- 
prise. It depends heavily on information collected by army historians in the 
field during combat, on preliminary draft narratives by other historians after 
combat, on specific assistance given me during the writing and research, and 
perhaps most important of all on the privilege (which I have always enjoyed) 
of tapping the collective knowledge of colleagues working in related fields. 
When the first draft was completed I had to leave the Division temporarily 
and the whole burden of editing devolved for some time upon others. I am 
particularly grateful to Associate Editor Joseph R. Friedman and to Capt. 
Frank Mahin, Capt. James Scoggin, and Mr. Detmar Finke of the Foreign 
Studies Section for undertaking much of the onerous burden of checking facts 
and footnotes in my absence, and for performing an editing task that often 
amounted to collaboration. 

It is a pleasure to acknowledge indebtedness to Col. S. L. A. Marshall for 
his indispensable series of interviews and manuscript studies of the airborne 
operations in Normandy and for his interviews with officers and men of the 
1st and 29th Divisions. Other combat interviews to which I am indebted were 
conducted by Lt. Col. W. T. Gayle and Capt. R. G. Ruppenthal. Special 
thanks are due Captain Ruppenthal and Colonel Taylor for the excellent pre- 
liminary studies on utah and omaha beach mentioned above which I have 
used freely. Interviews conducted by Dr. Forrest C. Pogue with some forty 
British planners and commanders in the summer of 1946 immeasurably en- 
riched the record available to me. 

In exploring German sources, besides assistance by the Foreign Studies 
Section I received special help from Capt. Benjamin Schwartz. The bulk of 
the research in air force records on which the section on the Combined 
Bomber Offensive is based was very ably performed by Lt. Col. Charles A. 
Warner. The task of locating relevant documents and running down some of 
the more elusive facts was made easier and more pleasant by the willing efforts 
of many special research assistants and archivists who cannot all be named 
here. I appreciate the co-operation of members of the JCS Historical Section, 
the Air Forces Historical Section, and the Office of Naval History. I am spe- 



X 



daily grateful to Mr. Israel Wice and his assistants, to Mr. Royce L. Thomp- 
son, and to Miss Alice Miller. 

The problems of dealing with an Allied operation largely from American 
records were greatly reduced by the generous help of the British Cabinet His- 
torical Section under Brigadier H. B. Latham. I must particularly acknowl- 
edge the contributions of Lt. Col. H. A. Pollock and Lt. Col. A. E. Warhurst. 
Colonel Warhurst, author of the British Historical Section's preliminary nar- 
rative of operations in northwest Europe, has sent me copies of important 
documents missing from the files here and has supplied careful briefs of 
British action. Useful information was also supplied by the British Admiralty 
and the Air Ministry. Col. C. P. Stacey of the Canadian Historical Section 
gave me the benefit of his special knowledge. It should be pointed out, how- 
ever, that the British and Canadian historians do not concur in many of the 
judgments in this book and that they are in no way responsible for the han- 
dling of the material, or for errors of fact or presentation. 

For making available personal papers and other data I am indebted to the 
kindness of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Maj. Gen. Ray W. Barker, and Lt. 
Gen. Sir Frederick E. Morgan. Other commanders have helped clarify obscure 
points and have criticized portions of the manuscript. Footnotes acknowledge 
their contributions only in part. The warning must be repeated that their help 
in no way implies an endorsement of the use that has been made of it. 

Mr. Wsevolod Aglaimoff in the course of planning and laying out the maps 
provided me with new fruitful perspectives out of his knowledge and experi- 
ence as a military cartographer. Pictures were selected and prepared by Lt. 
Col. John Hatlem; aerial photographs were made by him specially for this 
volume through the co-operation of the 45 th Reconnaissance Squadron, 
USAF. Miss Michael Burdett edited the footnotes and, with Mrs. Frances T. 
Fritz, copy-edited the entire manuscript. The tremendous job of preparing 
the index was carried out by Mr. David Jaffe. Miss Mildred Bucan typed the 
manuscript for the printer. 

Cross-Channel Attack has been prepared under the general direction of 
Dr. Hugh M. Cole, Chief of the European Section, Historical Division. It has 
been a happy and rewarding experience to have had Dr. Cole's discerning 
counsel throughout the period of research and writing. 

GORDON A. HARRISON 

Washington, D.C. 
1 October 1950 



xi 



Contents 

Chapter Page 

I. THE ROOTS OF STRATEGY 1 

The Common Ground 1 

General Marshall's Project 13 

"Action in 1942-Not 1943" 21 

The Period of Indecision (July-December 1942) 32 

The Casablanca Conference 38 

II. OUTLINE OVERLORD (JANUARY-JULY 1943) 46 

Organization for Planning 46 

Size and Shape of the Attack 54 

Landing Craft Requirements 59 

Allotment of Resources, May 1943 63 

The COSSAC Plans 70 

III. OVERLORD IN THE BALANCE (AUGUST-DECEMBER 1943) 83 

Strategy Reviewed: The Quebec Conference 83 

Landing Craft Again 100 

Questions of Command 105 

The Cairo-Tehran Conferences 117 

IV. THE GERMAN ARMY IN FRANCE, 1940-1943 128 

Organization of the West 128 

Impact of the Russian and Mediterranean Fronts 140 

Rebuilding the Western Defenses 148 

V. OVERLORD REVISED 158 

U.S. Organization and Training for the Assault, January 1944 158 

The ANVIL-O VERLORD Debate 164 

The NEPTUNE Plans 173 

VI. PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 198 

The French Resistance 198 

The Combined Bomber Offensive 207 

The Bombing of French Railroads 217 

VII. GERMAN DEFENSE MEASURES, 1944 231 

OKW Policy in 1944 231 

Organization for Combat 236 

Command and Tactics 242 

The Defense on the Eve of Invasion 258 

xiii 



Chapter P"ge 

VIII. THE SIXTH OF JUNE 269 

The Invasion is Launched 269 

The Airborne Assault 278 

Hitting the Beaches 300 

The D-Day Beachhead 321 

IX. THE V CORPS LODGMENT (7-18 JUNE) 336 

Securing the Beachheads 336 

Junction Between V and VII Corps 351 

The Caumont Gap 366 

Toward St. L6 376 

X. THE CAPTURE OF CHERBOURG (8 JUNE-1 JULY) ... 386 

Securing the North Flank 386 

Attack to Cut the Peninsula 396 

Hitler Intervenes 408 

Advance to the Cherbourg Landfront 416 

The Fall of Cherbourg 422 

End of a Phase 438 

Appendix 

A. DIGEST OF OPERATION OVERLORD 450 

B. DIRECTIVE TO SUPREME COMMANDER, ALLIED EXPE- 

DITIONARY FORCE 457 

C. HITLER DIRECTIVE NO. 40 459 

D. HITLER DIRECTIVE NO. 51 464 

E. CHRONOLOGY OF MAIN PLANNING PAPERS FROM 1 
JANUARY 1944 468 

F. COMPARATIVE FIRE POWER OF THE U.S. AND GERMAN 

1944-TYPE INFANTRY DIVISIONS 470 

G. DIVISIONS AVAILABLE TO GERMANY ON 6 JUNE 1944 471 

H. TABLE OF EQUIVALENT RANKS 472 

I. RECIPIENTS OF THE DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSS 473 

J. BASIC MILITARY MAP SYMBOLS 477 

GLOSSARY 479 

CODE NAMES 485 

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 487 

INDEX 495 

xiv 



Charts 

No. Page 

1. Simplified Command and Planning Organization for European Opera- 

tions as of May 1942 3 

2. German Chain of Command in the West, May 1944 244 

3. Luftwaffe Command in the West 245 

4. German Naval Command in the West 245 

Maps 

1. Situation in Europe, 6 June 1944 268 

2. German Counterattack in the Cotentin 296 

3. 4th Infantry Division, 6 June 1944 305 

4. German Counterattack on Carentan, 13 June 1944 366 

5. Caumont Gap, Morning 10 June 1944 370 

6. The la Fiere Bridgehead, 9 June 1944 397 



Maps I-XXIV are in accompanying map envelope 

I. Overlord Area. 

II. The Final Overlord Plan. 

III. Development of the Lodgment. 

IV. Sealing Off the Battlefield. 

V. Order of Battle OB WEST, 6 June 1944. 

VI. Allied Assault Routes, 6 June 1944. 

VII. The Airborne Assault, 6 June 1944. 

VIII. 101st Airborne Division Drop Pattern, 6 June 1944. 

IX. 82d Airborne Division Drop Pattern, 6 June 1944. 

X. V Corps D-Day Objectives. 

XI. Omaha Beach Assault. 

XII. The Second British Army on D Day. 

XIII. German Countermeasures, 6 June 1944. 

XIV. V Corps, 7-8 June 1944. 
XV. VII Corps on D + 1. 

XVI. Battle for Carentan and Junction of the Beachheads, 8-12 June 1944. 

XVII. V Corps Advance, 9-13 June 1944. 

XVIII. Kampfgruppe Heintz, 6-11 June 1944. 

XIX. Toward St. L6, 14-18 June 1944. 

XX. Securing the North Flank, 8-14 June 1944. 

XXI. Attack to Cut the Peninsula, 10-18 June 1944. 

XXII. The Advance North, 19-21 June 1944. 

XXIII. The Attack on Cherbourg, 22-26 June 1944. 

XXIV. The Advance Inland, 6 June-1 July 1944. 



XV 



Illustrations 

Page 

President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill 7 

General Marshall 14 

U.S. Soldiers in Ireland 20 

Casablanca Conference 39 

General Morgan 50 

British Landing Craft on Beach at Dieppe 55 

German Submarine Under Aerial Attack 85 

Quebec Conference 89 

General Montgomery 118 

Tehran Conference 124 

Field Marshal von Rundstedt and General Jodl 132 

German High Command 134 

Enemy Coast Artillery 139 

Field Marshal Rommel 150 

General Eisenhower 159 

Invasion Training in England 161 

Assault Training . 163 

Vauville Beach, Spring 1944 178 

Preinvasion Bombing 195 

Hitler Leaving Railway Carriage at Compiegne 199 

V-Bomb Over London, June 1944 216 

Bombardment of Marshaling Yards 226 

Results of Air Attacks 229 

Antilanding Obstacles 251 

German Mobile Infantry 255 

Captured German Armor 256 

Preinvasion Scenes 271 

Allied Invasion Chiefs 273 

German Field Commanders 277 

Parachute Troops 279 

Hedgerow Country 285 

Merderet River Crossing 294 

Crossing the Channel 299 

Troops on Utah Beach 303 

Aerial View of Utah Beach on D-Day Morning 306 

Aerial View of Omaha Beach on D Plus 1 310 

Terrain on Omaha Beach 312 

Assault Landings, Omaha Beach 314 

First Aid on the Beach 316 

Rangers Scaling the Cliffs at Pointe du Hoe 323 

Ninth Air Force B-26 Over British Beachhead 331 

Troops on Utah Beach Under Artillery Fire 343 

Planes and Gliders Circling Les Forges 346 

xvi 



Page 

U.S. Commanders 352 

St. C6me-du-Mont Area 354 

Carentan Causeway 358 

Carentan and Hill 30 Area 362 

Tank Equipped with Hedgerow Cutter 385 

Crisbecq Fortification 389 

Azeville Forts 391 

Quineville 394 

La Fiere Causeway 399 

Tank Entering St. Sauveur-le Vicomte 405 

Ste. Colombe-Nehou Area 407 

Seine River Bridge at Mantes-Gassicourt Under Bombardment .... 409 

Utah Beach During the Build-up 424 

Omaha Beach During the Build-up 425 

Artificial Port at Omaha Beach 427 

American Artillery in Action Against Cherbourg 433 

Fort du Roule 435 

House-to-House Search in Cherbourg 437 

American Infantry Captain with Cherbourg Prisoners 439 



Illustrations are from the following sources: 

U.S. Army Photos, pages: 7, 14, 20, 39, 50, 89, 118, 124, 132, 159, 163, 178, 216, 251, 256, 271, 273, 277, 

. 285, 303, 310, 316, 343, 352, 385, 405, 424, 425, 427, 433, 437, 439 
U.S. Air Force Photos, pages: 85, 195, 226, 229, 279, 285, 294, 306, 312, 331, 346, 354, 358, 362, 389, 

391, 394, 399, 407, 409, 424, 427, 435 
U.S. Navy Photos, pages: 161, 323 
U.S. Coast Guard Photos, pages: 161, 299, 303, 314, 425 
Captured German Photos, pages: 55, 134, 139, 150, 255 
National Archives Photo, page: 199 



xvii 



The U.S. Army Center of Military History 

The Center of Military History prepares and publishes histories as required by 
the U.S. Army. It coordinates Army historical matters, including historical proper- 
ties, and supervises the Army museum system. It also maintains liaison with public 
and private agencies and individuals to stimulate interest and study in the field 
of military history. The Center is located at 1099 14th Street, N.W., Washington, 
D.C. 20005-3402. 



xviii 



CHAPTER I 



The Roots of Strategy 



The Common Ground 

Overlord, the cross-Channel attack 
which hit the German-occupied coast of 
Normandy on 6 June 1944, was one of the 
last and by far the biggest of the series of 
amphibious operations by which the 
United States and the British Empire 
came to grips with the German— Italian- 
Japanese Axis in the course of World War 
II. But it was more than just another at- 
tack. It was the supreme effort of the 
Western Allies in Europe— the consum- 
mation of the grand design to defeat Ger- 
many by striking directly at the heart of 
Hitler's Reich. One of the last attacks, it 
was the fruition of some of the first stra- 
tegic ideas. 

The principles that eventually shaped 
overlord were developed early but their 
application was discontinuous, inter- 
rupted by diffuse experimentation and 
improvisation. Neither ideas nor plan- 
ning can be traced along a single line 
from a clear beginning to the ultimate ac- 
tion, overlord was an Allied project. 
British and American planners worked 
together, but they also worked separately, 
particularly in the early years of the war. 
Sometimes their efforts paralleled each 
other; sometimes they were at cross-pur- 
poses. Within both the American and the 
British military establishments, further- 
more, divergent opinions struggled for ac- 
ceptance. The whole story of planning 
and preparing the cross-Channel attack is 



thus many stories which can be told only 
in terms of the planners and directors 
concerned, and the pragmatic organiza- 
tions within which they worked. 

At least a year and a half before the 
United States was drawn into the war, the 
groundwork for possible Anglo-American 
military collaboration against the Axis 
was being laid. The Navy Department 
took the lead in the summer of 1940 in es- 
tablishing a permanent observer in Lon- 
don (Rear Adm. Robert L. Ghormley) 
whose job was specifically to discuss ar- 
rangements for naval co-operation in case 
the United States came into the war, and 
generally to provide a channel for the 
interchange of naval information be- 
tween the two countries. 1 Army observers 
also traveled to London during 1940 on 
special missions, but the War Depart- 
ment did not set up a permanent liaison 
body until the spring of 1941. At that 
time Maj. Gen. James E. Chaney, a vet- 
eran of twenty-four years' experience in 
the Air Corps, was sent to London as a 
Special Army Observer directly respon- 
sible to Gen. George C. Marshall, the 
U. S. Army Chief of Staff. General 
Chaney's headquarters became known as 
SPOBS (Special Observers) . Admiral 
Ghormley's group at the same time was 
reconstituted and he was designated Spe- 
cial Naval Observer, reporting directly 

1 Administrative History of U.S. Naval Forces in 
Europe, 1940-1946, MS, pp. 2ff. Hist Div ales. See 
Bibliographical Note. 



2 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



to Admiral Harold R. Stark, the U. S. 
Chief of Naval Operations. 2 

The establishment of Chaney's and 
Ghormley's groups stemmed from agree- 
ments with the British in early 1941 to ex- 
change military missions in order to in- 
sure continuous co-ordination of ideas 
and techniques. The British, as a result 
of these agreements, set up in Washing- 
ton the Joint Staff Mission, representing 
the British Chiefs of Staff. Heads of the 
Joint Staff Mission were co-ordinate rep- 
resentatives of each of the three service 
chiefs. Jointly the mission was responsible 
to the British Chiefs of Staff Committee 
as a whole. Originally the United States 
intended to establish a similar joint mis- 
sion. But in the first place the United 
States had at that time nO system of joint 
direction comparable to the British 
Chiefs of Staff. In the second place it was 
considered that a formally constituted 
military mission might lead to political 
commitments which, in view of U. S. 
neutrality, the government could not ac- 
cept. 3 

The co-ordination provided by the in- 
terchange of information through U. S. 
observers and the British mission was sup- 
plemented during 1941 by two formal 
Anglo-American military conferences. 
The first was held in Washington be- 
tween January and March; the second 
took place in August on shipboard in the 
Atlantic. At both conferences principles 
of combined strategy in Europe were dis- 
cussed and tentative agreements reached 
on the policy that would govern com- 
bined conduct of the war when and if the 

2 Ibid.; [Henry G. Elliott], The Predecessor Com- 
mands: SPOBS and USAFBI (The Administrative 
and Logistical History of the ETO: Part I) , MS, pp. 
23-24. Hist Div files. 

3 Elliott, The Predecessor Commands, pp. 2, 25. 



United States became Great Britain's ally. 
The agreement known as ABC— 1, which 
was arrived at in the course of the first of 
these meetings, was especially important. 
Although its decisions were not binding 
on either nation and were not officially 
recognized by President Roosevelt, they 
were nevertheless accepted by the War 
and Navy Departments as a basis for plan- 
ning in the event of U. S. participation in 
the war. 4 

The observer and military mission 
period came to an abrupt end in Decem- 
ber 1941 after the Japanese attacked Pearl 
Harbor and Germany declared war on the 
United States. In January 1942 Anglo- 
American alliance became a fact and the 
British Chiefs of Staff came to Washing- 
ton to reaffirm earlier informal agree- 
ments on combined strategy and to plan 
the combined conduct of the war. Their 
most important achievement was the es- 
tablishment of permanent machinery for 
collaboration: the Combined Chiefs of 
Staff ] {Chartl\ The Combined Chiefs of 
Staff were denned as consisting of the 
British Chiefs of Staff or their representa- 
tives in Washington (the Joint Staff Mis- 
sion) and the United States opposite 
numbers. 5 Their duties as finally ap- 
proved were to formulate and execute, 
under the direction of the heads of the 
United Nations, policies and plans con- 
cerning the strategic conduct of the war, 
the broad program of war requirements, 
the allocation of munitions, and the re- 
quirements for transportation. 6 

4 Brief of abc-1 Conversations. Pre-Inv file 308. 
See Bibliographical Note. 

6 U.S. ABC-4/CS-4, 14 Jan 42. OPD files, arcadia 
Conf Bk. 

6 CCS 9/1, War Collaboration Between United Na- 
tions. Approved at CCS 4th Mtg, 10 Feb 42. See Bibli- 
ographical Note for location and nature of CCS docu- 
ments. 



THE ROOTS OF STRATEGY 



3 



PRESIDENT 



CHIEFS 


O F 




JOINT 
CHIEFS OF 
STAFF 


ARMY 


NAVY 


AIR 




1 


1 


1 




1 


OPDJ 


NAVY 
PLANS 


AIR 
PLANS 




JOINT 
PLANNING 
STAFF 



Command channels 
Composition lines- 



COMBINED 
CHIEFS OF 
STAFF* 



COMBINED 

STAFF 
PLANNERS 



PRIME 
MINISTER 





BRITISH 
CHIEFS OF 
STAFFt 




1 




JOINT 
PLANNERS 





CHIEFS 


O F 


ARMY 


NAVY 


AIR 


1 1 1 


COMBINED 
COMMANDERS 


ARMY 


NAVY 


AIR 



'Admiral Leahy (beginning in July 1942) represented Commander in Chief Roosevelt, and Field Marshal Dill represented 
Minister of Defence Churchill in the Combined Chiefs of Staff. 

tThe Joint Staff Mission met in Washington with the Joint Chiefs of Staff as representatives of the British Chiefs of Staff. 
In major conferences, such as C'airo, Tehran, Yalta, etc., the British Chiefs of Staff attended themselves. 

+ The Operations Division was the agency most concerned with planning for European operations. 

Chart 1 .—Simplified Command and Planning Organization 
for European Operations as of May 1942 



The curious definition of the Com- 
bined Chiefs was compelled by the fact 
that there was no organization of United 
States Chiefs of Staff at that time equiva- 
lent to the British Chiefs of Staff Com- 
mittee. It was primarily to provide "op- 
posite numbers" to the British for mem- 
bership in the combined organization 
that the U. S. Joint Chiefs of Staff came 
into being. 7 Initially they consisted of 
Gen. George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff 

7 The only interservice directorate previously ex- 
isting was the Joint Board founded 17 July 1903. The 
Joint Board, charged with co-ordinating all matters 
of joint interest to the services, consisted in 1942 of 
four Navy and four Army members: for the Army, 
the Chief of Staff, the Deputy Chief of Staff, the 
Deputy Chief of Staff for Air, and the Director of the 
War Plans Division; for the Navy, the Chief of Naval 
Operations, the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations, 
the Chief of the Bureau of Naval Aeronautics, and 
the Director of the War Plans Division of the Office 



of the Army, Lt. Gen. Henry H. Arnold, 
Commanding General of the Army Air 
Forces and Deputy Chief of Staff for Air, 
Admiral Harold R. Stark, Chief of Naval 
Operations, and Admiral Ernest J. King, 
Commander in Chief of the U. S. Fleet. 
In March 1942, the offices held by Stark 
and King were combined under King; 8 
Stark was sent to London as Commander 
of U. S. Naval Forces in Europe. The 
three Joint Chiefs then corresponded to 

of Naval Operations. The Joint Board was primarily 
concerned with administrative matters and doctrine. 
It continued to exist after the establishment of the 
Joint Chiefs although its duties and importance 
dwindled. It was finally abolished by executive or- 
der in August 1947. 

8 Admiral King, Annapolis graduate of 1901, served 
during World War I as Assistant Chief of Staff to the 
Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, winning 
the Navy Cross. In 1937 he moved into the group 
controlling broad naval operations and was, sue- 



4 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



the British organization, which in 1942 
included Gen. Sir Alan Brooke, Chief of. 
the Imperial General Staff, Admiral Sir 
Dudley Pound, First Sea Lord, and Air 
Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal, Chief 
of the Air Staff. The British Chiefs, how- 
ever, met with the Americans only at 
periodic military-political conferences. In 
the interim they were represented on the 
permanent combined body in Washing- 
ton by the Joint Staff Mission, the original 
members of which were Lt. Gen. Sir Col- 
ville Wemyss, Admiral Sir Charles Little, 
and Air Marshal A. T. Harris. 9 In addi- 
tion to the three service members of the 
mission, Field Marshal Sir John Dill 10 sat 
as a member of the Combined Chiefs of 

cessively, a member of the General Board of the 
Navy, Commander of the U.S. Fleet Patrol Force, 
and, with the rank of admiral, Commander in Chief 
of the Atlantic Fleet. He assumed command of the 
U.S. Fleet in December 1941. Admiral Stark, An- 
napolis graduate of 1903, had commanded a destroyer 
squadron in active service against submarines in the 
Mediterranean and the Atlantic in World War I, 
later serving on the staff of the Commander, U.S. 
Naval Forces Operating in European Waters. He 
was made Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance in 1934 
and four years later became Commander, Cruisers, 
Battle Force. The following year, 1939, he was pro- 
moted to full admiral and assumed his post of Chief 
of Naval Operations. 

9 The Joint Staff Mission superseded the earlier 
British Military Mission in May 1941. Changes in 
personnel up to 1944 were: Chief of the British Army 
Staff— Lt. Gen. Sir Colville Wemyss (to March 1942) , 
Maj. Gen. R. H. Dewing (March-June 1942) , Lt. 
Gen. G. N. Macready; Chief of the British Admiralty 
Delegation — Admiral Sir Charles Little (to June 
1942) , Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham (June- 
December 1942) , Admiral Sir Percy Noble; Chief of 
the British Air Staff — Air Marshal A. T. Harris (to 
February 1942) , Air Marshal D. C. S. Evill (Febru- 
ary 1942-June 1943) , Air Marshal Sir William Walsh. 

10 Field Marshal Dill, Sandhurst graduate and Boer 
War veteran, was Field Marshal Haig's Brigadier 
General, Operations, during the last Hundred Days 
before the 1918 Armistice. He served on the General 
Staff in India, was Director of Military Operations 
and Intelligence in the War Office, commanded two 
divisions in Palestine during the Arab rebellion, and 



Staff representing the Prime Minister, 
Winston S. Churchill, in his capacity as 
Minister of Defence. In July 1942, the 
Joint Chiefs of Staff also acquired a fourth 
member in Admiral William D. Leahy, 
appointed Chief of Staff to President 
Roosevelt in his capacity as Commander 
in Chief of the Army and Navy. 11 

The mechanics of joint and combined 
direction of the Allied war effort de- 
veloped very slowly although most of the 
machinery was established in early 1 942. 
Just as the Joint Chiefs of Staff themselves 
were formed to parallel the existing Brit- 
ish organization, so they established their 
principal subordinate agency, the Joint 
Planning Staff, along the lines developed 



was Commander-in-Chief at Aldershot. As Chief of 
the Imperial General Staff from May 1940 through 
1941, he was responsible for the reinforcement of the 
British armies in Egypt and the Middle East and for 
the decision to send British troops to Greece. Pro- 
moted to field marshal in December 1941, he was 
sent to Washington as Head of the British Joint 
Staff Mission and senior British member of the Com- 
bined Chiefs of Staff. 

11 Long after the Joint Chiefs of Staff had become 
an accepted functioning organization an attempt was 
made to give them a written charter. But it was dis- 
covered that definitions of authority at such high 
levels tended to confuse rather than clarify the posi- 
tions of responsibility and trust established by inti- 
mate personal relationships. The attempted definition 
was rejected by President Roosevelt, and the corpo- 
rate existence of the Joint Chiefs of Staff continued 
to stem from the Combined Chiefs of Staff charter. 

Admiral Leahy, Annapolis graduate in the class of 
1897, saw active war service against the Spanish Fleet 
in Santiago Harbor, in the Philippine Insurrection, 
and in the Boxer Uprising. During World War I, he 
served aboard ships of the line and also commanded 
a troop transport, winning the Navy Cross. He as- 
sumed command of the New Mexico in 1926 and in 
1933 was made Chief of the Bureau of Navigation. 
Four years later (then an admiral) , he became Chief 
of Naval Operations. In 1939, retired from the serv- 
ice, he was appointed governor of Puerto Rico. The 
following year he went to France as U.S. Ambassador. 
It was from this post that he was recalled to active 
duty by the President in 1942. 



THE ROOTS OF STRATEGY 



5 



by the British. The U. S. Joint Planning 
Staff together with the British Joint 
Planners constituted the Combined Staff 
Planners, responsible to the Combined 
Chiefs of Staff. 12 In theory, plans and 
studies of U. S. policy and strategy were 
to come up through joint committees to 
be co-ordinated by the Joint Planners and 
then submitted for approval to the Joint 
Chiefs. If approved, they became the of- 
ficial U. S. view to be placed before the 
Combined Chiefs for acceptance as Allied 
policy. British studies would develop 
along parallel lines. In case of important 
discrepancies between American and 
British views, the problem might be re- 
ferred by the Combined Chiefs to their 
planning staff for adjustment. The Com- 
bined Planners, being more of a co-or- 
dinating than a working body, seldom 
initiated planning papers. 

By 1943 the practice of joint and com- 
bined planning closely approximated the 
theory. But in early 1942 most actual 
planning on the U. S. side was done in the 
War and Navy Departments and co-or- 
dination between the services was effected 
largely outside the formally established 
joint channels. 13 As far as the European 
war was concerned, the War Department 
and particularly the Operations Division 
took the initiative in planning and Gen- 
eral Marshall assumed personal responsi- 



12 Combined Planners named in the original Com- 
bined Chiefs' charter were: for the U.S., Rear Adm. 
R. K. Turner (USN) , Brig. Gen. Leonard T. Gerow 
(USA) , Capt. R. E. Davison (USN) , Col. E. L. 
Naiden (AC) ; for the British, Capt. C. E. Lambe 
(RN) , Lt. Col. G. K. Bourne, Group Capt. S. C. 
Strafford (RAF). 

13 U.S. planning organization and techniques are 
considered at length in Ray S. Cline, Washington 
Command Post: The Operations Division, a volume 
now under preparation in this series. 



bility for establishing and defending the 
U. S. view. 

On the British side, the joint system 
had been worked out and was fully opera- 
tive in 1942. The British Joint Planners 
directly responsible to the British Chiefs 
of Staff were throughout the war the chief 
planning body concerned with develop- 
ing British strategy. Much of the opera- 
tional planning, however, was done by 
various field commands. Especially im- 
portant was the Combined Operations 
Headquarters, which was headed after 
September 1941 by Commodore Lord 
Louis Mountbatten. 14 At the time that 
Mountbatten became chief, Combined 
Operations was charged with responsi- 
bility for planning and executing raids 
against the Continent. It was also pri- 
marily concerned with all the technical 
problems of amphibious operations, and 
in particular with the development of 
landing craft. 15 In January 1942 Gen. Sir 
Bernard Paget, commander of the British 
Home Forces (the highest army field com- 
mand in England), was brought into the 
planning picture by a directive from the 
Chiefs of Staff to study a cross-Channel at- 
tack plan written by the British Joint 
Planners. 16 Paget was asked to study this 

14 Mountbatten, who entered the Royal Navy in 
1913, served at sea during World War I, for the last 
two years as a midshipman. After specializing in com- 
munications, he was assigned as Mediterranean Fleet 
Wireless Officer in 1931. Then followed assignments 
as commander of the Daring, the Wishart, and, in 
1939, the Kelly and the 5th Destroyer Flotilla in 
Mediterranean operations. He came to Combined 
Operations Headquarters after commanding the Il- 
lustrious. 

15 Paper by Lt. Col. Paddy Corbett, The Evolution 
and Development of Amphibious Technique and Ma- 
terial, read before British Staff College, Camberly, 
England, May 45. Hist Div files. 

16 General Paget, winner of the Distinguished Serv- 
ice Order and Military Cross in World War I, en- 
tered the British Army in 1907. As commander of the 



6 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



plan in consultation with the designate 
Naval and Air Force Commanders-in- 
Chief (Admiral Sir Bertram H. Ramsay 
and Air Marshal Sholto Douglas respec- 
tively). Beginning their association in- 
formally these three became in the course 
of the first six months of 1 942 the nucleus 
of a formal planning body, the Combined 
Commanders. Later Mountbatten was of- 
ficially added to their number and the 
Commanding General of U. S. Forces in 
the European Theater was informally in- 
cluded among them. The Combined 
Commanders held their first meeting in 
May 1 942 and thereafter until early 1 943 
acted as the chief British planning agency 
concerned with the development of plans 
for a cross-Channel attack. 17 

To sum up, the informal military rap- 
prochement between the United States 
and Great Britain which began in 1940 
culminated in January 1942 with the for- 
mation of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. 
The Combined Chiefs were a co-ordinat- 
ing agency at a very high level. The de- 
tailed work, not only of drawing up tac- 
tical plans but of outlining strategy, 
studying requirements, and testing prin- 
ciples against resources, was done very 
largely by separate U. S. and British 
bodies. At the strategy level, the most im- 
portant in 1942 were the Joint Planning 
Staff and the Joint Planners for the Amer- 
icans and the British respectively. On the 



18th Division in 1939 in operations in Norway, he 
successfully engineered its evacuation. He was pro- 
moted to lieutenant general and in 1940 was ap- 
pointed Chief of General Staff, Home Forces, hold- 
ing this position until he assumed command of the 
Home Forces in 1942. 

17 21 A Gp, Note on the History of Planning for Op- 
erations in Northwest Europe, 30 Dec 43. Hist Div 
files. 



other hand, the agencies most directly 
concerned with drawing up plans for Eu- 
ropean operations in 1942 were, in the 
United States, the Operations Division of 
the War Department, and, in England, 
the Combined Commanders. Finally, over 
and above all these formally constituted 
planning and directing bodies stood 
President Franklin D. Roosevelt and 
Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill, the 
ultimately responsible persons for all 
military decisions, who exerted a direct 
and vital influence on planning that cut 
athwart all the formal channels of co-op- 
eration. 

In the period before the United States 
entered the war, the planning of offensive 
operations against Germany was naturally 
desultory and inconclusive. In view of 
British weakness and aloneness on the 
edge of Hitler's Europe, and in view of 
America's jealously preserved isolation, 
the interesting thing is that planning took 
place at all. The notion of a British attack 
across the Channel could have had little 
reality and no urgency during the days 
when the German armies were in the 
flood tide of their initial victories on the 
Continent. Yet the British Joint Planners 
before the end of 1941 had drawn up an 
invasion plan. They called it roundup, a 
name suitably reflecting the concept of an 
operation in the final phase of the war 
against only token resistance, roundup 
was a plan for an operation with very 
small resources and bore little relation to 
the attack against Normandy in 1944. 
Nevertheless it was a beginning and some 
of its ideas persisted far into the overlord 
planning period. 

roundup was planned to exploit Ger- 
man deterioration. As a condition for the 



PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT AND PRIME MINISTER CHURCHILL 



8 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



invasion, it was assumed that the Germans 
had abandoned hope for victory, and were 
withdrawing their occupation forces to 
concentrate on the defense of the Reich. 
The purpose of roundup was to disrupt 
that orderly withdrawal. British forces 
would assault west and east of Le Havre 
on beaches from Deauville to Dieppe. 
The object would be initially to 
dominate an area between Calais and 
the Seine 75 to 100 miles deep. The in- 
vasion forces would then push north, take 
Antwerp and proceed into Germany 
across the Meuse River north of Liege. 
Total forces to be used were 6% infantry 
divisions, 6 armored divisions, 6 army 
tank brigades, and supporting troops. 
Preliminary bombardment to soften the 
coast defenses would require three naval 
vessels, including one capital ship. The 
diffuse, small-scale landings and the tiny 
dimensions of the total force at once 
underlined the basic condition of enemy 
weakness set for the operations, and re- 
flected the military poverty of the British 
at the time. 18 

The 1941 roundup was not taken very 
seriously and was never introduced offi- 
cially into combined discussions. The im- 
mediate concern of both Americans and 
British was necessarily with basic strategic 
principles in the light of which long- 
range planning and production could be 
undertaken. The first Allied discussions 
of strategy took place when the war was 
still confined to Europe. It was clear, 
however, that Japan might at any time 



13 JP (41) 1028, 24 Dec 41. CCS files, CCS 381 (3- 
23-42) , par. I. This was the final version of the plan. 
An earlier version, JP (41) 823 (0) Draft, was dated 
9 Oct 41; no copy has been located among Dept. of 
the Army records. 



enter the conflict. In that event, if the 
United States was drawn into war with 
all three Axis members Allied military 
resources would be scattered and Allied 
strategy immensely complicated. A de- 
cision was urgently required as to where 
U. S. and British forces should first be con- 
centrated. That decision was taken at the 
conference in early 1941 when the U. S. 
War and Navy Departments agreed with 
the British to defeat Germany first while 
remaining on the strategic defensive in 
the Pacific. 19 For Great Britain geography 
made the choice obligatory. American 
concurrence was dictated by reasons less 
obvious but scarcely less compelling. Ger- 
many was considered the dominant Axis 
member whose defeat would greatly 
weaken the war-making power of Japan. 
Only against Germany could the offensive 
power of both the United States and Great 
Britain be concentrated without uncover- 
ing the British Isles. Finally, the United 
States, desperately short of shipping, 
could not at first afford long lines of com- 
munication. "Time and space factors," 
wrote General Marshall in reviewing the 
early years of the war, "dictated our 
strategy to a considerable degree. To land 
and maintain American forces in Aus- 
tralia required more than twice the ship 
tonnage for similar American forces in 
Europe or North Africa." 20 The decision 
to take the offensive first against Germany 
was reaffirmed at the arcadia Conference 
in Washington on 31 December 1941 
after the United States entered the war. It 
was reaffirmed without question despite 
the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. 

19 Brief of ABC-1 Conv. See n. 4. 

20 George C. Marshall, Biennial Report of the Chief 
of Staff of the United States Army, July 1, 1941, to 
June 30, 1943 (Washington, 1943) , p. 10. 



THE ROOTS OF STRATEGY 



9 



In the very broadest sense, the ground- 
work for overlord was thus laid. The 
early combined discussions tried further 
to explore ways and means of getting at 
Germany. But offensive plans necessarily 
remained vague so long as the needs for 
defense of the United Kingdom and, after 
Pearl Harbor, of American bases in the 
Pacific absorbed not only all resources on 
hand but the bulk of those immediately in 
prospect. 

The conclusion was that direct offen- 
sive action against Germany was unlikely 
at least until 1943. At the Arcadia Con- 
ference, the following agreement was 
reached: 

In 1942, the methods of wearing down 
Germany's resistance will be . . . ever in- 
creasing air bombardment by British and 
American forces . . . assistance to Russia's 
offensive by all available means . . . [and 
operations] the main object [of which] will 
be gaining possession of the whole North 
African coast. ... It does not seem likely 
that in 1942 any large scale land offensive 
against Germany, except on the Russian 
front, will be possible . . . [but] in 1943, 
the way may be clear for a return to the 
continent across the Mediterranean, from 
Turkey into the Balkans, or by landings in 
Western Europe. Such operations will be the 
prelude to the final assault on Germany it- 
self. 21 

The program thus outlined was to a re- 
markable degree carried out. But it was 
not carried out without prolonged and 
searching re-examination of each step of 
the prelude. In the course of that re-ex- 
amination the American and British 
Chiefs of Staff discovered an important 
difference of opinion in their approach to 
the problem of defeating Germany. The 
difference was adumbrated in an ex- 



U.S. ABC-4/CS-1, 31 Dec 41. Arcadia Conf Bk. 



change of views in the fall of 1941 called 
forth by a Review of Strategy submitted 
by the British Chiefs of Staff for Ameri- 
can consideration. In reply, American 
joint planners criticized the indirection 
of the British approach to offensive ac- 
tion. They noted "only minor attention" 
in the Review to possible land operations 
and expressed the opinion that although 
naval and air power "may prevent wars 
from being lost, and by weakening enemy 
strength, may greatly contribute to vic- 
tory, . . . dependence cannot be placed on 
winning important wars by naval and air 
forces alone. It should be recognized as 
an almost invariable rule," they added, 
"that wars cannot be finally won without 
the use of land armies." 22 

That point, of course, had not escaped 
the British. The first British roundup 
plan was in itself a recognition of the need 
for ground action on the Continent and 
specifically admitted that "operations on 
the Continent will in some form be in- 
evitable." 23 Further, in reply to Ameri- 
can objections to their Review, the Brit- 
ish Chiefs of Staff explained that the in- 
direct offensive methods which they had 
listed, including blockade, bombing, and 
the encouragement of subversive activi- 
ties in German-occupied countries, did 
not preclude an eventual large-scale land- 
ing on the Continent when the time was 
ripe. 24 

If there was, at this time, any real dis- 
agreement, it was over a question of em- 
phasis. Neither operations, nor plans, nor 



22 Joint Planning Committee Rpt, General Strategy 
—Review by the British Chiefs of Staff, 25 Sep 41, 
JB 325, ser 729. OPD files. 

23 roundup Plan cited n. 18. 

24 American Liaison (41) 8th Mtg, 21 Nov 41. Navy 
Dept files, Ghormley Papers. 



10 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



even strategic principles were immedi- 
ately at issue. The arcadia formula, cited 
above, outlined a program to which both 
British and American military leaders 
could subscribe without reservation, and 
it did not contradict anything in either 
the British Review or the American reply 
to it. The American protest was neverthe- 
less significant for the future. It fore- 
shadowed an American impatience to get 
on with direct offensive action as well as a 
belief, held quite generally in the U. S. 
War Department, that the war could most 
efficiently be won by husbanding re- 
sources for an all-out attack deliberately 
planned for a fixed future date. American 
impatience was opposed by a British note 
of caution; American faith in an offensive 
of fixed date was in contrast to British 
willingness to proceed one step at a time 
molding a course of action to the turns of 
military fortune. This opposition was by 
no means clear in 1941. It is sketched here 
in order to provide a vantage point for 
the understanding of Anglo-American 
strategy, and as a guide through a neces- 
sarily condensed and selective account of 
the debate on how to fight the war against 
Germany. 

The complex bases for American and 
British strategic views will appear in the 
course of the narrative. At the risk of over- 
simplification, however, it may be useful 
here to generalize that the prime differ- 
ence between those views derived from 
the fact that the British, close to the scene 
of the war, tended to focus on the diffi- 
culties of assault, and the tactical and 
logistical problems involved, while the 
Americans, some 3,000 miles away, found 
it easier to start with the large view of the 
strategic problem. British planners were 
deeply and continuously conscious that 



to attack northwest Europe armies had 
to get across an ugly piece of water called 
the Channel, that this crossing took boats 
and special equipment, that when the 
troops landed they had to storm fortifica- 
tions and fight a German Army that had 
all Europe by the throat. Americans were 
aware of these problems only at second 
hand and at a distance. They worked from 
maps. Each perspective, it should be 
noted, had a distinct contribution to 
make. If the British saw the tactical prob- 
lems more clearly, the Americans were 
enabled to give freer rein to their imagi- 
nation and to arrive at bolder offensive 
concepts. 

These views need not necessarily have 
been opposed. They were opposed largely 
because the strategic problem as it de- 
veloped in early combined discussion was 
not one of developing and carrying out 
the ideally best plan for defeating Ger- 
many. It was rather a problem of tailor- 
ing an ideal strategy to the changing polit- 
ical and military shape of a war in which 
the enemy at first had the initiative. The 
difference of opinion as to how the tailor- 
ing should be done was called forth pri- 
marily by the cry for immediate action. 

That cry was taken up by many voices 
for a number of different reasons. In the 
first place, it was recognized that the 
sooner the Allies could wrest the initiative 
from the Axis the sooner they could stop 
dissipating resources to plug holes in the 
defense and start concentrating them for 
the defeat of the enemy. The combined 
Chiefs of Staff discussed at the arcadia 
Conference one plan for immediate ac- 
tion, called gymnast, which looked as 
though it might have a chance of success 
even when carried out by the relatively 
tiny forces then available to the United 



THE ROOTS OF STRATEGY 



11 



States and Great Britain. 25 gymnast, a 
plan for the invasion of North Africa, was 
a highly speculative operation. For success 
it gambled on the nonresistance of the co- 
lonial French, and even if successful it was 
doubtful whether it would materially 
contribute to the offensive against Ger- 
many except in strategically tightening 
the ring around her. What it clearly 
would do, however, would be to put U. S. 
ground troops in action against the Ger- 
mans. This consideration was particu- 
larly important to President Roosevelt, 
who thought that immediate action 
would stiffen American morale and have 
the reverse effect on the Germans. 26 
Strongly championed by both the Presi- 
dent and the Prime Minister, gymnast 
was accepted by the Combined Chiefs of 
Staff in January 1942. But the more 
pressing need to send immediate rein- 
forcements to the Southwest Pacific to 
check Japanese expansion toward Aus- 
tralia forced postponement and at last 
in March drew from the Combined Plan- 
ners a declaration that the project had 
become academic. 27 

In the meantime, both U. S. and British 
planners were independently investigat- 
ing the possibility of being forced into 
action in 1942 in order to assist the Soviet 
Union. When Hitler attacked the USSR 
in June 1 941 , many observers felt that the 
Russians would fall before the German 
blitz as quickly as had most of the rest of 

25 Full treatment of the gymnast-torch project 
will be found in George F. Howe, Operations in 
Northwest Africa, a volume now under preparation 
in this series. 

26 (Marshall) Notes of Meeting at the White House 
with the President and the British Prime Minister 
Presiding — 5:00 p.m. (Dictated from rough notes) , 
23 Dec 41. C/S file 384 (Mtgs and Confs) . See Bibli- 
ographical Note. 

27 CCS 11th Mtg, 10 Mar 42. 



Europe. Then the Red Army tightened 
and held in front of Moscow and, when 
the snows came, struck back. Despite this 
success, however, neither American nor 
British military leaders were sanguine 
about the ability of the Russians to with- 
stand a new German offensive in 1942. 
U. S. planners wrote: "Although Russia's 
strength was greatly underestimated by 
military authorities, including the Ger- 
mans, a true test of Russia's capacity to 
resist the enemy will come this sum- 
mer." 28 The outcome of that test, they 
believed, was the key to the European 
and possibly to the world situation. De- 
feat of the USSR would enable the Ger- 
mans to dominate the whole of Europe, 
complete the blockade of England, and 
probably force England to capitulate. If 
so, then it followed that every possible 
effort should be made by the Western 
Powers to insure that Russia was not de- 
feated. 

At the end of February 1942, Brig. Gen. 
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Assistant Chief 
of Staff, War Plans Division, wrote: "The 
task of keeping Russia in the war in- 
involves . . . immediate and definite ac- 
tion. It is not sufficient to urge upon the 
Russians the indirect advantages that will 
accrue to them from Allied operations in 
distant parts of the world. . . . Russia's 
problem is to sustain herself during the 
coming summer, and she must not be per- 
mitted to reach such a precarious position 
that she will accept a negotiated peace, 
no matter how unfavorable to herself, in 
preference to continuation of the fight." 
The two ways of assisting Russia, General 

28 JCS 23, Annex C, 14 Mar 42. This paper is actu- 
ally a composite of directives and deployment studies 
dating back to 30 January 1942. See Bibliographical 
Note for location and nature of JCS documents. 



12 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



Eisenhower noted, were Lend-Lease aid 
and early operations in the west to draw 
off from the Russian front large portions 
of the German Army and Air Force. He 
was dubious whether a sizable ground 
attack from England could be mounted 
soon, but at least, he thought, air opera- 
tions could be initiated. 29 

The U. S. Joint Planning Staff, study- 
ing the whole question of U. S. troop de- 
ployment, went much further. They be- 
lieved that a considerable land attack 
could be launched across the English 
Channel in 1942. Although it would 
have to be done at first largely by British 
forces, American participation would 
build up rapidly, and the prospect of such 
reinforcement should enable the British 
to mount the attack on a slimmer margin 
than would otherwise be possible. On 
this basis, the planners outlined what they 
thought would be a possible operation to 
take place in the summer of 1 942 with a 
D Day between 15 July and 1 August. The 
operation was to open with a fifteen-day 
air attack, the strategic purpose of which 
would be to divert the German Air Force 
from the east. The immediate tactical 
objectives were to establish control of the 
air over the Channel and at least a hun- 
dred kilometers inland between Dun- 
kerque and Abbeville, and to inflict the 
maximum damage on German military 
installations and lines of communication. 
During the air offensive, commandos were 
to raid the coasts of the Netherlands, Bel- 
gium, and Normandy. In phase two, be- 
ginning about D plus 30, major land 
forces were to cross the Channel with the 
mission of securing the high ground north 



29 Memo for CofS, 28 Feb 42. (Italics in the origi- 
nal.) OPD files, exec 4, env 35. 



of the Seine and Oise Rivers, and of de- 
stroying enemy ground and air forces in 
the general area Calais-Arras-St. Quen- 
tin-Soissons-Paris-Deauville. The plan 
did not go into operational detail. The 
critical problem of landing craft received 
little attention beyond a listing of the 
barge requirements and a notation that 
both Americans and British would have 
to construct special craft. 30 

The British Joint Planners had come to 
the same conclusion as the U. S. War De- 
partment—that the approaching summer 
campaign of 1942 in Russia was likely to 
be critical and might require support by 
diversions in the west if Russia was to be 
kept in the war. On the other hand, the 
British were much more pessimistic about 
what could be done. The maximum feas- 
ible operation, they thought, would be a 
limited-objective attack— something like 
a large-scale raid— the main purpose of 
which would be to tempt the German Air 
Force into a battle of destruction with the 
Royal Air Force under conditions favor- 
able to the latter. 31 For that concept, 
Prime Minister Churchill coined the code 
name sledgehammer, and the Combined 
Commanders were directed to study and 
report on it. They found at once that the 
name was far more aggressive than the 
plan could be. They faced a tactical para- 
dox. They were asked to strike where 
RAF fighters could engage the Luftwaffe 
on favorable terms. There was only one 
such area, since effective fighter cover 
from British bases extended at that time 
only over the beaches between Dun- 
kerque and the Somme. This area, called 



30 JCS 23, App. II, JPS 2/6, 5 Mar 42. 

31 Capt M. McLaren, secy to Combined Command- 
ers, Notes on the History of sledgehammer, Sep 42. 
Hist Div files. 



THE ROOTS OF STRATEGY 



13 



the Pas-de-Calais, 32 had the strongest 
German defenses of any portion of the 
French coast. It also had flat beaches un- 
suitable for British landing craft. The 
beaches furthermore had too few exits to 
pass the required number of vehicles in- 
land to maintain the forces landed. Fi- 
nally the ports in the area were too small 
to supply a force large enough to hold a 
bridgehead against the probable scale of 
German counterattack. In short, the one 
area where the RAF could supply fighter 
support and achieve the main purpose of 
defeating the Luftwaffe was precisely the 
one area which, from every other point of 
view, was unsuitable for assault. 33 

The problem seemed insoluble and the 
planners first concluded that no cross- 
Channel operation was possible in 1942 
unless the Germans showed signs of col- 
lapse. This conclusion, however, was 
modified by a second report submitted 
by the Combined Commanders early in 
April. Assuming then that they might 
disregard requirements for the security 
of the British Isles and that "the main- 
tenance problem" 34 could be "successfully 
overcome," they calculated that an inva- 
sion of the Pas-de-Calais could be carried 
out. But, they added, if the Germans 
countered in force, the beachhead prob- 
ably could not be held and, if lost, it was 
doubtful whether the bulk of the men 
and equipment could be evacuated. The 

82 The Pas-de-Calais actually was the name of a de- 
partment in the center of the coast considered for in- 
vasion. But the name was used by the planners, and 
will here be used, in the looser sense of the coast line 
washed by the Strait of Dover between Dunkerque 
and the Somme. 

33 Memo, Brig C. V. McNabb, sledgehammer, 17 
Jul 42. SHAEF G-3 files, Ref Lib Gp D. See Bibli- 
ographical Note. 

si The British term "maintenance" is generally 
equivalent to U.S. "supply." 



British Chiefs of Staff did not wholly en- 
dorse this analysis, but they did tacitly 
accept the conclusion that establishment 
of a permament bridgehead on the Con- 
tinent would probably be impossible in 
1942. 35 

General Marshall's Project 

The first look at the cross-Channel 
project discovered only a host of diffi- 
culties that seemed all but insuperable. 
So long as attention was focused on an 
attack in 1942 all plans were pervaded 
with the sense that to do anything at all 
would be to act in desperation, to accept 
abnormal military risks for the sake of 
avoiding ultimate disaster. If the view 
in London was more pessimistic than in 
Washington, that was in large part be- 
cause the major risks of action in 1942 
would have to be borne by the British. 36 
In addition the British, whose mobiliza- 
tion was already far advanced, were in- 
clined to see operations through the glass 
of current resources which, in general, 
could be increased in one category only by 
reduction in another. The United States, 
on the other hand, even while struggling 
desperately to build up the stocks needed 
for defense in the Pacific, was still con- 
tinuously aware of its huge potential 
resources. Although it was recognized 
that in 1942 American military power 
would only begin to make itself felt, 
plans even for that year reflected the 
Americans' basic optimism and recom- 
mended risks far greater than the British 
considered accepting. 

35 McLaren, Notes on sledgehammer, cited n. 31. 

86 This was freely admitted by General Marshall. 
Draft Memo, Marshall for Roosevelt, The Pacific 
Theater versus bolero, undtd (sent to the President 
6 May) . OPD file 381 gen sec. 2, case 62. See Bibli- 
ographical Note. Cf. below, p. 30. 




GENERAL MARSHALL, Chief of Staff, United States Army. 



THE ROOTS OF STRATEGY 



15 



It was in looking further ahead, how- 
ever, that the American optimistic view 
made its chief contribution to strategy. 
Until mid-March, plans for 1942 had been 
considered without specific reference to 
long-range objectives. Except for the de- 
termination to attack in Europe, there 
were no specific long-range objectives. 
The general principles agreed to at 
arcadia did not form a concerted plan 
of action. 

In March 1942, the Operations Divi- 
sion of the War Department (OPD) be- 
gan work on an outline plan for a full- 
scale invasion of the European continent 
in 1943. It was to be projected as the basis 
for the deployment of forces and as a 
guide for strategy. The need for such a 
guide had become increasingly urgent as, 
despite the shelving of gymnast, Presi- 
dent Roosevelt continued to press for im- 
mediate action. 37 On 25 March, the Presi- 
dent called the Joint Chiefs of Staff and 
Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson to 
the White House to ask advice on future 
offensive operations. Specifically he 
wanted to know whether U. S. troops 
might profitably be used in Syria, Libya, 
and northwest Africa, as well as in north- 
west Europe. On 2 April, General Mar- 
shall gave the President the War Depart- 
ment's answer embodying OPD's outline 
plan for a cross-Channel attack in 1943. 38 

37 Cbl, Roosevelt to Churchill, 9 Mar 42. OPD 
file ABC 311.5 (1-30-42). 

38 The first memorandum was submitted by OPD 
on 27 March. The last draft bearing a date was pre- 
pared on 2 April. This was revised by General Eisen- 
hower and the revision constituted the memorandum 
as finally presented to the British. This final version 
is undated and titled simply "Operations in Western 
Europe." Additional studies were made after 2 April, 
an analysis of U.S. troop build-up being dated as late 
as 6 April. For the final version and various drafts 
and appendixes see Pre-Invasion file 308. Copy of the 



The War Department and General 
Marshall were convinced that the main 
U. S.-British ground offensive should be 
undertaken against northwest Europe. 
They rejected the Mediterranean areas 
suggested by Roosevelt because commit- 
ment of U. S. troops there would be 
strategically defensive. Although the con- 
quest of North Africa would break Axis 
control of the Mediterranean and prevent 
an Axis move through West Africa, the 
victory would not in itself be decisive and 
could not be exploited for further de- 
cisive action against Germany. 

The body of General Marshall's memo- 
randum therefore, was concerned with 
exploring the concept of a cross-Channel 
invasion of France. The operation was 
conceived in three phases: a preparatory 
phase, the cross-Channel movement and 
seizure of bridgeheads between Le Havre 
and Boulogne, and, finally, consolidation 
and expansion of the bridgehead. Logis- 
tics set the earliest possible date for the 
beginning of phase two at 1 April 1943, 
except under emergency conditions. 39 
The preparatory phase would begin at 
once with the organization, arming, and 
overseas movement of the necessary 
forces. During the summer of 1 942 small 
task forces would raid along the entire 
accessible enemy coast line. General 
Marshall attached great value to these 
preparatory raiding operations which he 
defined as the "establishment of a pre- 



original OPD memo is in AAF file 381, War Plans 
Sec. G. See Bibliographical Note. Discussion follow- 
ing is based on the memorandum plan and its ap- 
pendixes. 

39 Actually it was noted that, if only, U.S. shipping 
was available for U.S. troop and supply build-up, the 
invasion date would be delayed until late summer. 
By 1 April, it was estimated, U.S. shipping could 
transport only 40 percent of the forces required. 



16 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



liminary active front." He thought they 
might serve to draw German troops from 
the east and so "be of some help to 
Russia." They might also be useful for 
deception either in persuading the Ger- 
mans that no all-out offensive would be 
attempted or else in keeping them on ten- 
terhooks for fear that any one of the raids 
might develop into a full-scale invasion. 
Thinking of national morale, a considera- 
tion always important to both the Presi- 
dent and the Prime Minister, he noted 
that raiding together with air operations 
would be "of immediate satisfaction to 
the public." But, he added, "what is most 
important" is that the raids would "make 
experienced veterans of the air and 
ground units, and . . . offset the tendency 
toward deterioration in morale which 
threatens the latter due to prolonged in- 
activity." 40 

The main attack in the spring of 1943 
was planned to employ 48 divisions sup- 
ported by 5,800 combat aircraft. Land- 
ings would take place between Etretat 
north of Le Havre and Cap Gris Nez with 
the object of seizing the lower valley of 
the Somme and the high ground forming 
the watersheds of the Seine-Somme river 
system. Two main assaults were planned, 
on either side of the mouth of the Somme. 
The bridgeheads would be expanded to 
the southwest in order to seize Le Havre 
and the line of the Seine River. Although 
U. S. planners made use of some detailed 
data on terrain and estimates of the 
enemy, they did not attempt to examine 
tactical problems even to the extent that 
British planners had studied them in 
working on sledgehammer. The main 
purpose of the Marshall Memorandum 

40 Memo, Operations in Western Europe, cited n. 
38. 



was to pin down a strategic idea suffi- 
ciently so that production, training, and 
troop allocations and movement could be 
"coordinated to a single end." There was 
time for planning, but none for delaying 
the basic decision. For example, it was 
pointed out that under current produc- 
tion schedules only 10 percent of the tank 
landing craft required to carry U. S. 
troops in the assault would be available. 
Only a decision now could insure the re- 
quired resources in time. 

The Marshall Memorandum shifted 
emphasis from 1942 to 1943 while retain- 
ing for 1942 some activity which might 
satisfy political requirements. In the 
event that an operation should be re- 
quired in 1942 to save the Russians or 
take advantage of sudden German de- 
terioration, preparations were to be made 
to permit a cross-Channel assault on 
greatly reduced scale in the fall of the 
year. The maximum U. S. forces which 
could be on hand for such an assault were 
three and a half divisions, and the opera- 
tion would be justified only by prospects 
of marked deterioration of the German 
army in the west. 

In the second week in April General 
Marshall and Mr. Harry Hopkins, special 
emissary of President Roosevelt, went to 
London to seek a firm decision from the 
British Chiefs of Staff on the form, loca- 
tion, and timing of the British- American 
main effort. As it turned out, that deci- 
sion was quickly reached with general 
agreement on the project outlined in the 
Marshall Memorandum. 41 Discussion 
then shifted to what could be done in 
1942. General Marshall reported that by 

41 British Chiefs of Staff, Comments on General 
Marshall's Memorandum, 13 Apr 42, COS (42) 97 
(0) . C/S file 381. 



THE ROOTS OF STRATEGY 



17 



the end of August U. S. reinforcement 
of the Pacific, Iceland, and Northern Ire- 
land garrisons should be complete and the 
United States could concentrate on pour- 
ing troops and supplies into England for 
offensive action. He thought two and a 
half infantry divisions, one armored divi- 
sion, and 900 U. S. aircraft could be in 
the United Kingdom by 15 September. 42 

General Brooke, Chief of the Imperial 
General Staff, said his planners counted 
on landing seven infantry and two ar- 
mored divisions if forced to attack the 
Continent in 1942, but he frankly did not 
like the prospect. Such a small force could 
not hold against German counterattacks 
and its loss would seriously weaken Eng- 
land's defenses. Also, he was worried 
about India and the Middle East, where 
the Japanese and Germans might join 
forces and capture the oil fields in Iran 
and Iraq on which, he thought, "the 
whole of our effort in both theaters de- 
pended." 43 

Brooke and Air Marshal Portal, Chief 
of Air Staff, also raised objections to the 
September date. 44 Brooke believed that 

42 COS (42) 23d Mtg (0) , 9 Apr 42. OPD file ABC 
381 bolero (3-16-42) sec. 5. 

43 Ibid. General Brooke, a graduate of the Royal 
Military Academy, Woolwich, had by 1941 acquired 
the reputation of being Britain's greatest expert on 
mechanization. For his service in France during 
World War. I, he received the Distinguished Service 
Order with Bar, the Belgian Croix de Guerre, and 
six mentions in dispatches. In the early part of World 
War II, he commanded the British Second Army 
Corps, his defensive action making possible the 
evacuation of Dunkerque. He then organized "and 
trained the British Home Forces in preparation for 
the expected Nazi invasion. He was made Chief of 
the Imperial General Staff in 1941, succeeding Field 
Marshal Dill. 

44 Portal, an observer and fighter pilot in World 
War I, entered the RAF College in 1922. In the 1930's 
he commanded the British forces in Aden and was 
Director of Organization, Air Ministry. Early in 



the operation would have to take place in 
August at the latest in order to capture a 
port before the third week in September, 
when bad weather was likely to prevail 
over the Channel. Portal thought that 
during the summer the German Air Force 
might win a complete victory over the 
Russians and so by autumn become a 
formidable enemy for the RAF. General 
Marshall agreed that an earlier target 
date would be advisable but felt he could 
not urge it since U. S. troops would not 
then be available. He clearly indicated 
that his main interest in a 1942 operation 
was to provide battle experience for the 
Americans in preparation for 1943. He 
was also concerned that, if something 
were attempted in 1942, it be an opera- 
tion across the Channel in order to avoid 
dispersion of forces. He did not want the 
main project— operations on the Conti- 
nent— reduced to the position of a "resid- 
uary legatee" for whom nothing was left. 45 
Against this view, Brooke continued to 
stress the danger in the Middle East. He 
then reversed the American concept that 
sledgehammer was a device to save the 
Russians. Operations in 1942, he said, 
depended on what success the Germans 
had against the Russians. "If they [the 
Germans] were successful," he believed, 
"we could clearly act less boldly. If, how- 
ever, the Russians held the Germans or 
had an even greater measure of success, 
our object should be to detach air forces 
from the Russian front." 46 In short, he re- 

World War II, he served on the Air Council and was 
Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Bomber 
Command. He became Chief of Air Staff in October 
1940. 

45 COS (42) 118th Mtg, 14 Apr 42. OPD file ABC 
381 bolero (3-16-42) sec. 5. 

46 War Cabinet Defence Com, DC (42) 10th Mtg, 
14 Apr 42. C/S file 381. On quotation of indirect dis- 
course, see n. 138. 



18 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



jected the emergency operation and ac- 
cepted only the operation of opportun- 
ity. 47 The opinion was in notable con- 
trast to the U. S. Army view that a 1942 
operation would be justified by the need 
for helping Russia in the war so that "an 
opportunity would be presented to us of 
defeating Germany next spring." 48 The 
point, however, was not argued, and the 
whole problem of a 1942 operation was 
returned to the planners for further 
study. 

General Marshall's scheme for invasion 
in 1943, on the other hand, was received 
with enthusiasm, qualified only by a note 
of caution from British planners. The 
planners observed again the two deficien- 
cies which had already crippled plans for 
a return to the Continent: the lack of 
landing craft (particularly craft capable 
of landing on the flat-gradient French 
beaches) and the lack of long-range 
fighter aircraft. They did not imply, how- 
ever, that these deficiencies could not be 
made up during the coming year. 49 

For the rest, the British Chiefs of Staff 
and the Prime Minister found nothing 
in the plan to quarrel with. The U. S. 
commitment to deliver one million troops 



47 Churchill also made this reversal more explicitly 
a little later when he wrote: "The launching of 
sledgehammer should be dependent not on a Russian 
failure but on Russian success and consequent 
proved German demoralization in the West." PM, 
Minute for Gen Ismay for CofS Com, 10 Jun 42, An- 
nex to COS (42) 175th Mtg. Copy in Hist Div files. 

48 Remark by Col J. E. Hull, U.S. (P) 4th Mtg, 12 
Apr 42. Pre-Inv file 287 (Combined Operations Con- 
ferences) . A series of meetings was held between 
U.S. and British planners in the course of the April 
conferences in London. 

49 Memo, British Staff Planners, Main Considera- 
tions Affecting The Employment on the Continent 
in 1943 of the Anglo-American Forces envisaged in 
General Marshall's Paper, undtd. OPD file ABC 381 
bolero (3-16-42) sec. 5. 



to the United Kingdom during the next 
year altered, in the opinion of Lord 
Mountbatten, "the whole picture of com- 
bined operations against the Continent. 
The plans, which we had been at present 
evolving, all fell short in one way or 
another for lack of essential resources. 
This would be all changed when the great 
flow of American forces began, and we 
should be enabled to plan that real return 
to the Continent, without which we could 
not hope to bring the war to a successful 
conclusion." 50 

The meeting at which Mountbatten 
so expressed himself was the concluding 
session of the conference with General 
Marshall. The tone of optimism was 
echoed by all those present and the whole 
meeting was informed with an extra- 
ordinary enthusiasm. Mr. Hopkins said 
that although American public opinion 
would have preferred an offensive against 
Japan, "the American nation was eager 
to join in the fight alongside the British." 
Mr. Anthony Eden, British Foreign Sec- 
retary, replied in kind. "The plan," he 
considered, "had much more than a 
purely military significance. It was, in 
fact, the great picture of two English- 
speaking countries setting out for the re- 
demption of Europe." Forgotten for the 
moment was the opinion expressed a 
month before that the Allies in 1942 were 
on the verge of defeat. 61 Instead of antic- 
ipating the need for a "sacrifice" opera- 
tion in order to save a chance to strike in 
1943, the conferees looked forward to 
sharing in a victory not far off. Churchill 
closed the meeting by summing up the 
complete unanimity of opinion and ad- 
ding a prediction that now "the two 

60 War Cabinet Mtg, 14 Apr 42, cited n. 46. 
61 JCS 23, cited n. 28. 



THE ROOTS OF STRATEGY 



19 



nations would march ahead together in a 
noble brotherhood of arms." 

The morrow brought soberer second 
thoughts, but the strategic decision, des- 
tined to last less than two months, at least 
laid some groundwork for the future. 
One immediate outcome was the estab- 
lishment of machinery to concentrate 
U. S. troops in England. The build-up 
operation, called bolero/ 2 was to provide 
a force of about one million men spe- 
cifically equipped to carry out an air 
offensive in 1942, a major invasion of the 
Continent in 1943, and if agreed on, 
a continental operation in conjunction 
with the British in 1942. Special planning 
staffs, bolero Combined Committees, 
were set up in Washington and London 
to function under the direction of the 
Combined Planning Staff. The commit- 
tees were not responsible for tactical plan- 
ning but were to proceed on the assump- 
tion that the invasion would conform to 
the outlines drawn in General Marshall's 
memorandum. 53 

The establishment of bolero planning 
formalized and intensified the process of 
preparing United Kingdom bases for 

62 There was considerable confusion in the early 
use of this code name, especially in the War Depart- 
ment where it was taken at first to indicate not only 
the build-up but the cross-Channel operation for 
which the build-up prepared. In the early days the 
confusion was symptomatic of a real conceptual 
identity between the operations. Decisions on the 
bolero build-up reflected attitudes toward the 
roundup attack. Cf. Robert E. Sherwood, Roosevelt 
and Hopkins: An Intimate History (New York, 
1948) , p. 569. 

53 In general the Washington Committee dealt 
with basic problems of policy; the London Commit- 
tee, made up of representatives of various British 
supply ministries and representatives of the U.S. 
Army, handled the more technical details of the plan. 
See [Herbert French] Supply and Troop Buildup in 
the UK (The Administrative and Logistical History 
of the ETO: Part III) , MS. Hist Div 61es. 



American troops, but the process had be- 
gun long before. As a result of the ABC-1 
decisions of early 1941 the War Depart- 
ment had drawn up deployment plans to 
be put into effect if and when America 
came into the war. One of the provisions 
was the magnet plan to move U. S. 
troops into Iceland in order to relieve 
British garrisons there and to send troops 
to Northern Ireland to establish and de- 
fend air and naval bases for the use of 
U. S. forces. In January 1942 the first 
contingent of troops under the magnet 
plan was shipped to Northern Ireland, 
although, as a result of the emergency re- 
inforcement of the Southwest Pacific area, 
the shipment had to be cut from a 
planned 17,300 to 4,000. Three more 
shipments arrived in Ireland before the 
end of May, bringing U. S. ground 
strength there to more than 32,000, in- 
cluding the 34th Division, the 1st 
Armored Division, and V Corps head- 
quarters. 54 

At the same time the U. S. Air Force 
was beginning to set up house in the 
British Isles. On 26 January 1942, Gen- 
eral Arnold submitted to General Mar- 
shall a plan to base 4,648 American 
planes in the United Kingdom, including 
54 groups of heavy bombers, 10 groups 
of medium bombers, and 10 groups of 
pursuit planes. 55 The build-up was be- 
gun at once. Brig. Gen. Ira C. Eaker, with 
a portion of his staff, was ordered to Eng- 
land in January and by the end of Feb- 

64 Elliott, The Predecessor Commands, pp. 15, 85- 
95. See n. 2. 

66 General Arnold, who had become Chief of the 
Air Corps in 1938, was directly responsible for the 
expansion of the American aircraft industry and the 
inception of the program for civilian training of fly- 
ing cadets. In 1940 he was made Deputy Chief of 
Staff for Air and the following year was given the 
additional duty of Chief, Army Air Forces. 



20 



CROSS CHANNEL ATTACK 




U.S. SOLDIERS IN IRELAND 



ruary he had established the VIII Bomber 
Command. In June his command was 
subordinated to the newly arrived Eighth 
Air Force under Brig. Gen. Carl Spaatz, 68 



M General Spaati, a graduate of West Point in 1914 
and of Aviation School in 1916, served with the First 
Aero Squadron of the Punitive Expedition into Mex- 
ico. During World War I, he flew in combat over St. 
Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne, receiving the DSC. In 
1940 he was an official observer of the Battle of Brit- 
ain and returned to the United States to take com- 
mand, first of the Air Corps Materiel Division and, 
later, of the AAF Combat Command. 

Before General Eaker undertook the assignment 
of establishing VIII Bomber Command, he had been 



The air build-up schedule in the mean- 
time was altered in a series o£ conferences 
in London in April between General 
Arnold and Air Chief Marshal Portal. 
The new basic plan, approved in June, 
drastically reduced the heavy bomber 
commitment: instead of 54 groups there 
would be 17. The force would include 
10 groups of medium bombers and 6 of 
light, 12 groups of pursuit planes, and 8 



on special duty with the RAF in England in 1941, 
observing and flying new types of fighters and ob- 
serving British fighter control methods. 



THE ROOTS OF STRATEGY 



21 



groups of transports, a total of 3,262 air- 
craft. 57 

On 4 July American air crews in six 
bombers borrowed from the RAF par- 
ticipated in a daylight attack on German 
airfields in the Netherlands. It was not 
until 17 August, however, that the Eighth 
Air Force carried out its first bombing in 
its own aircraft. By that time the whole 
European strategy had been profoundly 
altered and the build-up of air and 
ground forces in the United Kingdom 
abruptly ceased to be a first-priority task. 58 

"Action in 1942-Not 1943" 

The events between 15 April and the 
end of July 1942 produced, from the 
point of view of the U. S. War Depart- 
ment, a disturbing shift in Allied strategy. 
The April decision to concentrate on a 
build-up in the United Kingdom for a 
cross-Channel invasion in 1943 was sup- 
planted in July by the agreement to ship 
U. S. and British forces into the Medi- 
terranean to invade North Africa. The 
1943 rounduP; approved by acclamation 
in April as the first object of combined 
strategy in Europe, in July was laid aside 
in favor of extended preparatory and 
peripheral operations designed as prelude 
to a cross-Channel invasion of uncertain 
date. In General Marshall's view, this 
meant the dissolution of the strategy 
which had seemed so firmly established 
when he and Harry Hopkins left London 
in April. 59 

67 Elliott, The Predecessor Commands, pp. 130ft. 
See n. 2. 

58 See Wesley F. Craven and James L. Cate, eds., 
The Army Air Forces in World War II: I, Plans and 
Early Operations January 1939 to August 1942 (Chi- 
cago, 1948) , pp. 654, 655ff. 

69 See, for instance, his letter to Dill, 17 Aug 42, 
stating his belief that the July decisions had altered 



Of the many circumstances that com- 
bined to overturn the April agreements, 
one of the weightiest was the continued 
inability of planners to see any way out 
of the difficulties posed by sledgeham- 
mer. A draft plan for the operation was 
submitted at the end of April to newly 
appointed British force commanders, Ad- 
miral Ramsay, Air Marshal Sir Trafford 
Leigh-Mallory, and Lt. Gen. Edmond 
Schreiber. Their report on 4 May was 
that with current resources of landing 
craft sledgehammer was not a sound 
operation of war. The British Chiefs of 
Staff accepted the conclusion but directed 
that the plan be kept in readiness in case 
German collapse should make it feas- 
ible. 60 

In view of the new principle that 
sledgehammer would take place only 
under conditions of marked German de- 
terioration, planners now turned away 
from the uninviting prospect of a Pas-de- 
Calais assault. Air cover, they argued, 
would be less essential if the Germans 
were on the point of collapse and it there- 
fore might pay to look farther afield for 
an assault area containing a major port. 
They selected the Cherbourg and Le 
Havre areas, preferring the latter because 
it contained more airfields. 

But problems multiplied faster than 
solutions. It was discovered that it would 
take twenty-one days to land the six divi- 
sions with available shipping. When 



not only the strategy agreed upon in April but also 
the fundamental strategic agreements made at 
Arcadia. C/S file torch I; cf. Cbl to Eisenhower, 6 
Aug 42, draft in Memo, Handy for Classified MC. 
OPD file 381, ETO, sec. 2. Marshall wrote: "Torch 
operation is of necessity a substitution for Roundup 
and not a postponement of the same except for un- 
expected developments." See below, pp. 29-30. 
60 McLaren, Notes on sledgehammer, cited n. 31. 



22 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



Churchill was informed of this obstacle 
he replied, as one planner observed, in 
the manner of King Canute: he did not 
accept it. 61 Investigation should be made, 
he continued, into the use of floating 
piers and other devices to speed the land- 
ings. This observation, important for the 
future, had no immediate issue, for the 
Prime Minister had also put forward and 
secured War Cabinet approval of a prin- 
ciple that, in effect, threw out the whole 
sledgehammer idea. The principle was 
that "there should be no substantial land- 
ing in France unless we intended to re- 
main." 62 All planning to date had con- 
cluded that, whatever might be done in 
1942, the establishment of a permanent 
bridgehead on the Continent was beyond 
British resources. 

While planning for 1942 struggled 
vainly to solve the unbalanced equation 
between ends and means, simultaneous 
study of a 1943 cross-Channel assault was 
turning up its share of discouraging diffi- 
culties, and drawing conclusions that 
drastically modified the aggressiveness of 
the Marshall Memorandum. Planning 1 
for roundup was renewed for the first 
time on an organized combined basis even 
though arrangements remained informal. 
Col. Ray W. Barker, who had arrived in 
London about 1 April, was assigned 
shortly afterward to head the planning 
division of General Chaney's headquar- 
ters, which had been converted from 
SPOBS to United States Army Forces in 
the British Isles (USAFBI) . Barker set 
up shop in Grosvenor Square. British 
planners under Brig. Colin McNabb 



61 Ibid. 

62 COS (42) , 51st Mtg, 8 Jun 42 (0) . SHAEF SGS 
files; cf. McLaren, Notes on sledgehammer. The War 
Cabinet approved the new principle on 11 Jun 1942. 



worked near by. Colonel Barker's group 
received copies of all the planning papers 
which had been developed up to that time 
by the British. Almost daily conferences 
were held between Americans and British 
and, about once a week, agreed-on papers 
were submitted to the Combined Com- 
manders. 63 

By the middle of June 1942 the plan- 
ners had developed a new appreciation 
and outline plan for roundup to be 
mounted in the spring of 1943. The plan 
was accepted by the Combined Com- 
manders and submitted to the British 
Chiefs of Staff. It did not go into tactical 
details and was limited in scope to the 
establishment of bridgeheads including 
necessary airfields and port areas. The 
approach was cautious and the tactical 
idea quite different from that which pro- 
duced overlord. "If our invasion is to 
succeed," the planners wrote, "we must 
endeavor to disperse the enemy's mobile 
reserves on land and in the air. At the 
same time we must avoid such action as 
will allow the enemy to destroy isolated 
parts of our land forces in detail. It fol- 
lows, therefore, that while we must en- 
deavor to launch assaults on as wide a 
front as possible, the size of each assault 
and the rate of subsequent development 
must, if possible, be sufficient to meet the 
anticipated rate of enemy reinforcement 
in each area. ..." How to dissipate the 
enemy's defense by a diffuse attack and 
at the same time be strong at each widely 
separated point was not fully explained. 64 

The plan to make three "almost" simul- 
taneous assaults in the Pas-de-Calais and 

83 Interv with Gen barker, WD, 4 Oct 46. See Bibli- 
ographical Note. 

64 Joint Memo, Combined Commanders for Br 
COS, 17 Jun 42. Pre-Inv file 281, Combined Com- 
manders Papers. 



THE ROOTS OF STRATEGY 



23 



on both sides of the Seine would leave a 
gap of some 1 50 miles between the north- 
ern and southern bridgeheads. In addi- 
tion, subsidiary assaults were to be de- 
vised to lead to the early capture of Cher- 
bourg and the Channel Islands. The plan- 
ners did not go into this problem but 
merely noted that it was subject to fur- 
ther investigation. The first landings 
would require at least six divisions. "After 
the initial assaults the forces in each area 
are built up ... as a preliminary to fur- 
ther offensive operations." No attempt 
was made at the time to foresee these. The 
Combined Commanders, in forwarding 
the plan, told the British Chiefs of Staff 
that they believed it was the only possible 
way of effecting a re-entry into France, 
but even that would not be feasible "un- 
less the German morale was deteriorated 
by the spring of 1943 owing to another 
failure to defeat the Russians." 65 

Churchill was dissatisfied with the 
planners' caution. He retorted with a 
memorandum of his own sketching an 
operation with "qualities of magnitude, 
simultaneity and violence," and involving 
six landings by at least ten armored 
brigades in the first wave, and the de- 
barkation of 400,000 men in the first 
week. If in fourteen days, he wrote, 
"700,000 men are ashore, if air supremacy 
has been gained, if the enemy is in con- 
siderable confusion, and if we held at least 
four workable ports, we shall have got 
our claws well into the job." 66 Churchill's 
object in sketching his impression of 
roundup in such terms was to give an idea 
of the "scale and spirit" which he felt 



85 Ibid. 

66 Memo, Churchill for Marshall, Operation round- 
up, 15 Jun 42. Hist Div files. 



necessary if the undertaking was to have 
"good prospects of success." In reality, 
however, his concept required resources 
which seemed so far beyond reach that 
planners could not regard it seriously. 
They did not alter their view that round- 
up could go in only against a weakened 
enemy. 

Furthermore, even Churchill's concept, 
for all its vigor, remained academic in the 
absence of broad, formative decisions. 
Planners, without allotted resources, 
without a target date, and without a com- 
mand organization, worked in a school- 
room, trapped in circular arguments and 
unable to make real progress toward pre- 
paring a definite operation of war. Re- 
commendations by the Joint Planning 
Staff that commanders be selected at once 
to carry out the operation and that steps 
be taken to secure the appointment of a 
Supreme Allied Commander produced 
no results. 67 

The truth was that the general approval 
of the roundup idea which General Mar- 
shall had won in April 1942 did not re- 
flect any general conviction that the 1943 
cross-Channel attack was really the best 
way of carrying out Allied strategy in 
Europe. Skepticism remained on both 
sides of the Atlantic. In Washington 
President Roosevelt was wavering, and 
the U. S. Navy was lukewarm. Roosevelt, 
early in May, wondered whether more 
troops should not be sent out to the 
Pacific to reinforce Australia. Admiral 
King thought they should, and wrote that 
the mounting of bolero should not be 
allowed to interfere with Pacific plans. 
He called holding the Japanese "our 
basic strategic plan in the Pacific Thea- 



67 McLaren, Notes on sledgehammer. 



24 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



ter." 68 It was perhaps only a turn of phrase 
but General Marshall felt it necessary to 
remind the President that sustaining 
Russia, not holding the Japanese, was the 
basic strategy. The proposals to reinforce 
Australia would mean cutting in half the 
number of divisions that could be shipped 
to England for a sledgehammer opera- 
tion. Operations in 1942 from England, 
he pointed out, already depended pri- 
marily on the British, who would be 
accepting risks far graver than any run by 
the Americans. The British had agreed 
to bolero on the understanding that it 
was the prime U. S. project. If it was not, 
bolero should be abandoned and the 
British notified. 69 President Roosevelt 
retreated. He told General Marshall that 
he had only asked if the Australian rein- 
forcement could be done and he now 
agreed with him "and Admiral King" 
that it could not. He added: "I do not 
want 'bolero' slowed down." 70 On the 
same day, however, he expressed his im- 
patience with continued inaction. The 
Atlantic theater, he believed, called for 
"very great speed in developing actual 
operations. I have been disturbed," he 
wrote, "by American and British naval 
objections to operations in the European 
Theater prior to 1943. I regard it as 
essential that active operations be con- 
ducted in 1942." He realized the diffi- 
culties, but ideal conditions could hardly 
be expected. Expedients must be impro- 



153 Memo, The Pacific Theater versus bolero, cited 
n. 36. Proposals to reinforce Australia would have in- 
creased ground forces by 25,000 troops, air forces by 
100 planes. Another 215 planes were to be sent to the 
South Pacific. 

«»lbid. 

70 Memo, Roosevelt for Marshall, 6 May 42, OPD 
file 381, gen sec. 2, case 62. 



vised. "The necessities of the case call for 
action in 1942-not 1943." 71 

The President's impatience may have 
been reinforced by a visit of the Soviet 
Foreign Minister, Vyacheslav Molotov, to 
Washington at the end of May. Molotov 
came at the President's request primarily 
to discuss the Murmansk convoys of 
Lend-Lease war materials, but it was clear 
that he was still more vitally interested in 
the opening of a "second front." On his 
way he had stopped off at London to see 
Churchill, from whom he received only 
deliberately vague promises concerning 
the possibility of sledgehammer. 72 In 
Washington he tried to pin the Amer- 
icans down to a more definite commit- 
ment. What the Soviets wanted was an 
operation in 1 942 on a large enough scale 
to force the Germans to withdraw forty 
divisions from the Russian front. Such an 
operation evidently could not be prom- 
ised. The most that General Marshall 
would say was that a second front was in 
preparation, that the Western Allies were 
trying to create a situation in which a 
second front would be possible. The 
President, however, significantly ex- 
tended Marshall's answer and sent word 
through Molotov to Stalin to expect a 
second front in 1942. Roosevelt did not 
say where or on what scale. 73 Precisely 
what weight this promise carried in sub- 
sequent discussion is difficult to assess. 
Probably the promise was of more sig- 
nificance as a symptom than as a con- 
tributing cause of Roosevelt's eagerness 

71 Memo, Roosevelt for Secy of War, CofS, Gen 
Arnold, Secy of Navy, Adm King, and Hopkins, 6 
May 42. C/S file 381. 

72 McLaren, Notes on sledgehammer. 

73 Notes on White House Mtg, cited in Sherwood, 
Roosevelt and Hopkins, p. 563. The Molotov visit is 
treated at length by Sherwood, pp. 544-68. 



THE ROOTS OF STRATEGY 



25 



for immediate action. In any case, other 
pressures built up after Molotov left 
Washington. 

June 1942 marked the low ebb of 
British military fortunes. On the 13th, 
Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel at 
Knightsbridge in Libya defeated British 
armored forces in the last of a series of 
battles which had started 27 May. The 
British army retreated across the Egyptian 
border to El 'Alamein. On Sunday, 21 
June, British and Dominion troops, iso- 
lated in Tobruk by the withdrawal, were 
forced to surrender. The rest of the army 
dug in at El 'Alamein for the defense of 
Alexandria. 

That month also marked the opening 
of the expected new German offensive on 
the Russian front. Expected or not, the 
event was disheartening. The prevailing 
opinion among military leaders in Amer- 
ica and Britain was still that they would 
be lucky if Russia managed to stay in the 
war through 1942. In London the official 
estimates of the Russian situation in- 
cluded only two hypotheses: that Russia 
had been defeated by October 1942 (hy- 
pothesis "A"), or that Russia was still in 
the, war in 1943 "but had suffered heavily 
in manpower and materiel. . . ." 74 

The pressure was very great on Allied 
leaders to act at once wherever such action 
promised any fair chance of success. The 
pressure to act, moreover, coincided with 
an improved opportunity. Two decisive 
naval victories over the Japanese in May 
and June (Coral Sea and Midway) had 
relieved the immediate threat to Aus- 
tralia, and defensive requirements in the 
Pacific were thus no longer a sword of 

™JIC (92) 193 (Final) , German Strength and Dis- 
positions in 1943 under Certain Hypotheses, 21 May 
42. SHAEF SGS files, Combined Commanders Papers. 



Damocles hanging over plans for Euro- 
pean operations. 

Between the two North African disas- 
ters, on 18 June, the Prime Minister and 
the British Chiefs of Staff came to Wash- 
ington to discuss the desirability of re- 
orienting strategy. Churchill came be- 
cause he had been greatly alarmed by re- 
ports from Admiral Mountbatten that the 
President was pressing for a 1942 opera- 
tion. 75 It was clear to the War Depart- 
ment that Churchill's visit foreboded an 
eloquent attack on the April commitment 
to bolero. Secretary Stimson prepared 
for the President a strong defense of the 
bolero idea. He pointed out that all the 
reasons for adopting bolero were still 
valid and that no other operation could 
achieve the same end. No other opera- 
tion, furthermore, should be allowed to 
interfere with it. It was of prime impor- 
tance, he believed, to press unremittingly 
forward with bolero, not only because it 
was the best plan but because any devia- 
tion from it would be taken as "evidence 
of doubt and vacillation." 76 

At the same time General Marshall 
was again defending the idea before the 
Combined Chiefs. At an informal meet- 
ing with General Brooke and Field Mar- 
shal Dill the reasons for having made 
bolero the main effort were discussed and 
reaffirmed. Marshall's defense was at the 
moment completely successful and Gen- 
eral Brooke agreed that bolero should 
be pushed and that the North African in- 
vasion should not be undertaken. The 
generals further accepted the principle 

T6 See CCS 27th Mtg, 19 Jun 42. Mountbatten had 
come to Washington earlier in the month, primarily 
to discuss the problems of landing craft. 

76 Ltr, 19 Jun 42, cited in Henry L. Stimson and 
McGeorge Bundy, On Active Service in Peace and 
War (New York, 1948) , pp. 420-23. 



26 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



that any operations in 1942 would ad- 
versely affect operations in 1943, and 
should therefore be contemplated only in 
case of necessity. 77 

On Sunday, 21 June 1942, at the White 
House this decision was significantly 
modified. Churchill vigorously attacked 
the bolero idea and urged gymnast, with 
the knowledge (Stimson believed) that 
"it was the President's great secret 
baby." 78 In the midst of the discussions 
at the White House came the dramatic 
news of the surrender of Tobruk. The 
news greatly strengthened Churchill's 
arguments for diverting the Allied effort 
from bolero to North Africa and cor- 
respondingly weakened General Mar- 
shall's efforts to save what he regarded as 
sound strategy from being upset by po- 
litical considerations. 79 While arguing 
for bolero, however, General Marshall 
was deeply conscious of the gravity of the 
situation both in Egypt and in southern 
Russia, where German successes "threat- 
ened a complete collapse in the Middle 
East." 80 To meet that threat, Roosevelt 
and Marshall agreed to rush reinforce- 
ments of planes to the Middle East and 
tanks to the British armies in Egypt. Mar- 
shall hoped that these reinforcements 
would ease the pressure of the immediate 
emergency without disrupting basic 



77 Memo, CCS for information, Minutes of an In- 
formal Meeting . . . held in General Marshall's Office, 
June 19, 1942. OPD file ABC 381 (3-16-42) sec. 2. 

78 Stimson and Bundy, On Active Service, p. 425. 

79 Notes on War Council Mtg, 22 Jun 42. C/S file, 
Secy of War Confs, Vol. II. The War Council meeting 
at which General Marshall reported on the White 
House meeting was attended by the Secretary of War 
and Under and Assistant Secretaries as well as by 
Generals Arnold, McNair, Somervell, Knudsen, Mc- 
Narney, Surles, and Eisenhower. 

80 Quoted in Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, p. 
592. 



strategy. 81 The final upshot of the White 
House meeting was a compromise which 
left bolero the priority task but noted 
that it was "essential that the U. S. and 
Great Britain should be prepared to act 
offensively in 1942." The President and 
Prime Minister agreed that "operations 
in France or the Low Countries in 1942 
would, if successful, yield greater political 
and strategic gains than operations in any 
other theater." Such operations would 
therefore be planned and prepared with 
all vigor, but if they proved unlikely 
to succeed, "we must be ready with an 
alternative." The best alternative was 
gymnast j which should be "explored 
carefully and conscientiously" and plans 
completed in detail as soon as possible. 82 
Although in form these conclusions re- 
affirmed the priority of bolero in Allied 
European strategy, against the back- 
ground of the pessimistic reports of plan- 
ners in England they actually yielded pre- 
cedence to gymnast. This fact became 
increasingly clear as planners engaged in 
the last futile struggle with sledgeham- 
mer. On 24 June General Eisenhower 
arrived in London to take command of 
all American forces in Europe, as Com- 
manding General ETOUSA (European 
Theater of Operations, U. S. Army) . He 
spent a week looking around and then 
wrote General Marshall that although a 
lot of planning had been done at low 
levels most of the basic decisions such as, 
for instance, the exact frontage of the 
assault had still not been made. He re- 
ported General Paget's complaint of the 

81 Notes on War Council Mtg, 29 Jun 42. C/S file, 
Secy of War Confs, Vol. II. 

8 2 CCS 83/1, Offensive Operations in 1942 and 1943, 
24 Jan 42, Encloses memorandum by Maj. Gen. Sir 
Hastings Ismay reporting conclusions of a meeting 
held at the White House on 21 June. 



THE ROOTS OF STRATEGY 



27 



lack of effective organization. Paget told 
him: "If we could only have the organi- 
zation you have here, we could settle these 
matters in a morning. As it is we con- 
stantly go over the same ground and no 
real progress has been made." 83 

Lack of organization was a reflection of 
lack of conviction in high places that 
existing plans were practicable. A few 
days after his letter to Marshall, Eisen- 
hower talked to the Prime Minister and 
found him "quite averse to attempting 
anything in Western Europe. . . . He 
believes it would be slaughter," Eisen- 
hower noted, "because we are not strong 
enough." On the other hand, Churchill 
was perfectly confident about the north- 
west Africa operation— a confidence that 
Eisenhower at this time did not share. 84 

The Prime Minister's mind was, in 
fact, made up. On 6 July 1942 he pre- 
sided over a meeting of the British Chiefs 
of Staff at which "it was unanimously 
agreed that operation 'sledgehammer' of- 
fered no hope of success, and would 
merely ruin all prospects of 'roundup' in 
1943. " 85 The next step was to inform the 
Americans. This was done by two cables 
on 8 July, one to the Joint Staff Mission 
in Washington and the other a personal 
message from Churchill to Roosevelt. 86 
Both reported the unfeasibility of sledge- 
hammer and recommended that the 
Americans proceed with planning for 
gymnast, while the British investigate the 
the possibility of attacking Norway 
(Operation jupiter) . Field Marshal Dill 

83 Ltr, Eisenhower to Marshall, 30 Tun 42. OPD 
file 381, ETO, sec. I. 

84 Diary, Office of the Commander in Chief, 5 Jul 
42. Cited hereafter as Diary of CinC. See Bibli- 
ographical Note. 

85 McLaren, Notes on sledgehammer. 

86 See JCS 24th Mtg, 10 Jul 42. 



had a preliminary talk with General Mar- 
shall. He found the latter's reaction so 
strong that he contemplated cabling a 
warning to his government that to press 
acceptance of gymnast at the expense of 
bolero would "drive U. S. A. into saying 
'We are finished off with West and will go 
out in Pacific' " 87 As Admiral King was 
out of town, official U. S. reaction was de- 
layed. When King returned on 10 July, 
the Joint Chiefs met and General Mar- 
shall proposed just the step he had evi- 
dently discussed with Dill: turning from 
Europe to undertake an offensive in the 
Pacific. Admiral King approved, and re- 
marked that the British, in his opinion, 
had never wholeheartedly supported bo- 
lero. Further, he believed, the Japanese 
were not going to sit tight much longer 
but were planning new attacks in the 
South and Southwest Pacific. 88 Marshall 
and King then sent a joint memorandum 
to the President stating their view that 
gymnast was indecisive, would prevent a 
sledgehammer operation in 1942, and 
curtail or perhaps make impossible 
roundup in 1943. They concluded: "If 
the United States is to engage in any other 
operation than forceful, unswerving ad- 
herence to full bolero plans, we are def- 
initely of the opinion that we should turn 
to the Pacific and strike decisively against 
Japan." 89 

The memorandum went to Hyde Park. 
The next day General Marshall heard 
rumors that he and King and Harry Hop- 
kins would be sent to London but he still 
had no indication of the President's views. 
On 14 July the President telegraphed: "I 



87 Draft Cbl in C/S file 381. 

88 JCS 24th Mtg, 10 Jul 42. 

89 Memo, King and Marshall for President, 10 Jul 
42. C/S ale bolero. 



28 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



have definitely decided to send you, King 
and Harry to London immediately. ... I 
want you to know that I do not approve 
the Pacific proposal." 90 In conversation 
with Marshall the next morning in Wash- 
ington, Roosevelt called the proposal 
"something of a red herring" and was con- 
cerned lest it appear that "we had pro- 
posed what amounted to abandonment of 
the British." 91 General Marshall did not 
think so, but in any case the matter was 
dropped. 

General Marshall's vehement defense 
of bolero stemmed in part from his feel- 
ing that the world situation was extremely 
critical. He was fearful, in particular, of 
a Russian collapse. The German summer 
offensive toward the Caucasus had broken 
through the Kharkov front and forced the 
Russians into a general withdrawal. "The 
present action in the Don Basin," General 
Marshall wrote on 13 July, "indicates 
Russia's possible inability to halt the 
massed power of Germany and her Allies. 
Considering the distribution of popula- 
tion in regard to density and race, the lo- 
cation of primary agricultural and indus- 
trial areas, and the railroad and road net 
of Russia, it is evident that unless this 
German offensive is soon halted Russian 
participation in the war will become neg- 
ligible in magnitude, with the inevitable 
result of rendering all planning concern- 
ing roundup and all bolero movements 
(of ground troops at least) vain." The 
emergency for which sledgehammer was 
planned was at hand, he believed, and 
failure to meet it would doom the chances 
of a cross-Channel attack in 1943. Inva- 



00 Tel, Roosevelt to Marshall, 14 Jul 42. C/S file 

BOLERO. 

91 Memo, Marshall for King, 15 Jul 42. C/S file 
WDCSA 381 War Plans Sec. 



sion of North Africa, in his view, would 
not achieve the necessary diversion to 
save the Russian armies from collapse. 
He cabled his views to General Eisen- 
hower and asked Eisenhower to prepare a 
specific plan on how sledgehammer 
might be carried out. 92 

It was with these convictions as to the 
desperate urgency of sledgehammer that 
General Marshall on 16 July left for 
London. With King and Hopkins, he 
went as a personal representative of the 
President with large powers to settle 
strategy. The President's instructions re- 
quired that sledgehammer be strongly 
urged as the most important and perhaps 
imperative task for 1942. If it were found 
impossible, then Marshall should review 
the world situation with King and Hop- 
kins and determine "upon another place 
for U. S. troops to fight in 1942." 93 

At the first London meeting, on 20 
July, Churchill outlined his views and set 
the framework for subsequent staff dis- 
cussions. The first question, he said, was 
the feasibility of sledgehammer. Al- 
though the British had failed to devise a 
satisfactory plan, they would all listen 
sympathetically to any U. S. proposals. 
However, he went on to question the 

92 Cbl, Marshall to Eisenhower, 13 Jul 42, C/S file 

BOLERO. 

93 Memo, Roosevelt for Hopkins, Marshall, and 
King, Instructions for London Conference, — July 
1942, sgd orig in C/S file 381. This memorandum was 
drafted by the War Department, but Roosevelt made 
considerable changes in it, omitting the Pacific 
threat, and weakening the War Department's para- 
graph on commitment to roundup. The War Depart- 
ment draft on the latter point read that if sledge- 
hammer were given up, then the Allies should con- 
tinue "our planned activities and present commit- 
ments in other areas. We should proceed with round- 
up preparations." In Roosevelt's revision, these two 
sentences were struck out. War Department draft in- 
cluded in Diary of CinC. 



THE ROOTS OF STRATEGY 



29 



urgency of sledgehammer. Might it not 
be argued that roundup depended only 
on what the Russians did, and not on 
what the Western Allies might do? He 
wondered whether the roundup concept 
need be confined to an attack on the 
western seaboard of France. He then dis- 
cussed the value of invading North Af- 
rica and suggested that if the battle for 
Egypt went well it might be possible to 
attack even Sicily or Italy. 94 In a written 
review the next day the Prime Minister 
made his own conclusions clear, at least 
by implication. There were two main 
facts to be recognized, he believed: first, 
the immense power of the German mil- 
itary machine, which even without a de- 
feat of Russia could still shift to the de- 
fensive in the east and move fifty or sixty 
divisions to France; second, the race in 
the west between attrition of Allied ship- 
ping and development of Allied air 
power. "It might be true to say," he wrote, 
"that the issue of the war depends on 
whether Hitler's U-boat attack on Allied 
tonnage or the increase and application 
of Allied air power, reach their full frui- 
tion first." 95 Emphasis on these two facts 
as the key to strategy meant postponing 
decisive land operations against Germany 
while carrying out a preliminary policy 
of attrition, chiefly through an increasing 
air offensive. 

Although General Marshall was ada- 
mantly opposed to the concept, he found 
himself on weak ground in attempting to 
preserve the sanctity of the roundup idea 
while carrying out the President's man- 
date to take action somewhere in 1942. 
General Eisenhower was unable to defend 
sledgehammer as an operation offering 

94 Combined Staff Conf, 20 Jul 42. C/S file 319.1. 
06 Memo, 21 Jul 42, WP (42) 311. C/S file bolero. 



even a fair chance of tactical success. 
Eisenhower personally estimated that the 
chances of a successful landing were one 
in two and of being able to build up on 
the Continent to a force of six divisions 
about one in five. Still, he did point out 
that "if we are convinced that the Russian 
Army is now in a desperate situation . . ." 
the question of ~the tactical success or 
failure of sledgehammer was of little 
moment, and "the only real test of sledge- 
hammer's practicability is whether or not 
it will appreciably increase the ability of 
the Russian Army to remain a dangerous 
threat to the Germans next spring." He 
admitted that the desperateness of the 
Russian situation was a matter of pure 
conjecture, in which there was "consider- 
able difference of opinion." His conclu- 
sion, therefore, was that sledgehammer 
should be kept alive until the first of Sep- 
tember when a decision could be made on 
the basis of the Russian situation at that 
time. 96 

On the other hand, General Eisen- 
hower strongly recommended against ac- 
cepting gymnast as an alternative to 
sledgehammer, "gymnast/' he wrote, 
"is strategically unsound as an operation 
either to support roundup or to render 
prompt assistance to the Russians. Its ex- 
ecution now may be a logical alternative 
to 1943 roundup, but it is not a logical op- 
eration to insure execution of roundup. 
If undertaken now, it should be done on 
the theory that the Russian Army is cer- 
tain to be defeated and that, conse- 
quently, we should take advantage of the 
relatively favorable situation now exist- 



96 Memo (prepared by Gen Eisenhower with ad- 
vice of Gens Clark and Lee and Col Barker) , Con- 
clusions as to the Practicability of sledgehammer, 17 
Jul 42. Diary of CinC. 



30 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



ing to improve the defensive position that 
will be forced upon us in Europe and 
western Asia by a Russian defeat." 97 

Eisenhower's analysis anticipated in 
large measure the conclusions of the July 
conference. The British Chiefs of Staff 
were unalterably opposed to sledge- 
hammer as an operation without reason- 
able chance of success. Since the sledge- 
hammer force would necessarily be 
largely British and under British com- 
mand, their opposition was decisive. 98 

Marshall reported to the President the 
failure of his first task. The President re- 
plied, asking for study of gymnast as the 
next most desirable operation, and con- 
cluding with a request for "speed in a de- 
cision." 09 Even with sledgehammer 
ruled out, General Marshall was still re- 
luctant to commit U. S. strategy irrevoca- 
bly to the Mediterranean. He therefore 
arrived at a compromise with the British 
which began with agreement "that no 
avoidable reduction in preparation for 
roundup should be favorably considered 
so long as there remains any reasonable 
possibility of its successful execution be- 
fore July 1943." That possibility de- 
pended on the Russians, and it was fur- 
ther agreed that "if the situation on the 
Russian front by September 15th indi- 
cates such a collapse or weakening of 
Russian resistance as to make roundup 
appear impracticable . . . , the decision 
should be taken to launch a combined 
operation against the North and North- 

07 Ibid. Italics in original. General Marshall agreed 
that sledgehammer was not an operation he would 
choose if choice were possible. He believed, however, 
that choice was not possible, that "time was tragic- 
ally against us." Memo for the President, 28 Jul 42. 
C/S file 319.1. 

08 Memo, Marshall for the President, cited n. 97. 
00 Cbl, 23 Jul 42. C/S file 381. 



west Coast of Africa at the earliest pos- 
sible date before December 1942." 100 

Not only did this agreement leave the 
door open for reconsideration but it made 
clear that the choice was between gym- 
nast and roundup and that a decision to 
go into North Africa should be made only 
after roundup was discovered impracti- 
cable. To General Marshall, as to General 
Eisenhower, the choice of gymnast meant 
acceptance of a probable Russian defeat, 
which in turn would prevent Allied in- 
vasion of Western Europe. General Eisen- 
hower, reviewing the strategic situation 
on the eve of the conference's decision, 
admitted that gymnast seemed to be the 
only feasible and strategically valuable 
operation open to the Allies in 1942, but 
he added, "Since it is too much to hope 
that the Russians can continue fighting 
unaided, all through 1943, the final effect 
would be the abandonment of round- 
up." 101 The conclusion agreed to in con- 
ference with the British was only slightly 
less pessimistic. On American insistence, 
the agreement admitted that "a commit- 
ment to this operation [gymnast] renders 
roundup in all probability impracticable 
of successful execution in 1943 and there- 
fore that we have definitely accepted a de- 
fensive, encircling line of action for the 
Continental European theater, except as 
to air operations and blockade. ..." 102 

The door left open at the conference 
did not remain open long. On 25 July 
Harry Hopkins cabled Roosevelt urging 
an immediate decision in order to avoid 



100 CCS 94, Operations in 1942/3, 24 Jul 42. This 
paper states the decisions of the London Conference. 

101 Memo for Marshall, Survey of Strategic Situa- 
tion, 23 Jul 42. Diary of CinC. 

102 CCS 94, cited n. 100. 



THE ROOTS OF STRATEGY 



31 



"procrastinations and delays." 103 The 
President made up his mind at once. He 
called in Secretary Stimson and the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff 104 and, without discussion, 
read to them his decision to go ahead with 
gymnast. He saw no reason why the with- 
drawal of a few troops to the Mediter- 
ranean would prevent roundup in 1943. 
He desired action. To Hopkins, Marshall, 
and King, the President cabled, "Tell 
Prime Minister I am delighted that de- 
cision is made." 105 

The ambiguity of the "decision" which 
the President welcomed left the military 
leaders uncertain as to how definite the 
commitment to gymnast was. But it was 
perfectly clear that the North African 
project now had the inside track for plan- 
ning and preparation. By agreement, 
roundup planning was to continue under 
the Combined Commanders and the 
ETOUSA plans section headed by Gen- 
eral Barker. A separate U. S. staff would 
be sent to London to work on North 
Africa. Acceptance of the North African 
operation was sealed by baptism with a 
new code name: torch. 108 It was also de- 
termined that all currently planned op- 
erations (torch, sledgehammer, and 
roundup) would be under a United 
States Supreme Commander. Pending the 
formal appointment of such a com- 
mander, General Marshall and Admiral 
King directed General Eisenhower to 
take immediate control of planning for 
torch. If and when torch was finally de- 



103 Cited in Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, p. 
611. 

104 Admiral Leahy, General Arnold, and General 
McNarney. 

105 Cbl, 25 Jul 42. C/S file 381; Memo, Gen Deane 
for Admiral Willson, 25 Jul 42. C/S file WDCSA 381 
War Plans Sec. 

106 Agreed at CCS 33d Mtg, 25 Jul 42. 



cided on, the supreme commander of all 
operations in the theater would also com- 
mand torch with a British deputy. 107 The 
nationality of the commander for round- 
up was not determined. It was laid down, 
however, that he would not have opera- 
tional control of ground forces in the 
United Kingdom, that his function would 
be training and planning, and that troops 
would "only come under his operational 
command when the operation was 
mounted." 108 

After a week of uncertainty, 109 the 
President on the evening of 30 July in- 
formed the Joint Chiefs of Staff that he 
wanted to do torch but, before he cabled 
the Prime Minister of his decision, he 
would like an estimate of the earliest 
practicable date on which the operation 
could be launched. 110 The next day the 
British Joint Staff Mission was notified of 
the White House decision and cabled it to 



107 Later changed at British request in order to 
maintain appearance of an all-American operation 
and provide continuity of U.S. command in case the 
deputy had to take over. [Morton Yarman] torch 
and the European Theater of Operations (The Ad- 
ministrative and Logistical History of the ETO: 
Part IV) , MS, p. 20. Hist Div files. 

108 General Marshall speaking at CCS 33d Mtg. 
This controverted an earlier (1 July) recommenda- 
tion by the Combined Commanders that the round- 
up supreme commander also be charged with home 
defense of Great Britain. CC (42) 27, Notes on Sys- 
tem of Command for Operation roundup. SHAEF 
SGS files, Combined Commanders Papers. 

109 At the CCS 34th meeting, 30 July, there was 
considerable vagueness expressed as to whether the 
torch decision had been made. Leahy and Dill "had 
the impression" that it had. Admiral King believed 
the President and Prime Minister had not yet de- 
cided to "abandon roundup in favor of torch." 

110 Memo, Gen W. B. Smith for JCS, Notes of a 
Conference Held at the White House at 8:30 p.m., 
July 30, 1942, 1 Aug 42. OPD files, exec 5, item 1, 
tab 14. General Smith reported: "The President 
stated very definitely that he, as Commander-in- 
Chief, had made the decision that torch would be 
undertaken at the earliest possible date." 



32 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



the British Chiefs of Staff for relay to Gen- 
eral Eisenhower. General Eisenhower 
was to assume the position of Supreme 
Commander pending final decision on a 
permanent appointment. 111 

In London, General Eisenhower took 
immediate steps to get the operation 
under way. As no new planning staff had 
arrived from the United States, it became 
necessary to employ American officers al- 
ready in the United Kingdom. That 
meant denuding staffs which had been 
working on Continental planning. Gen- 
eral Barker, selected as acting G-3 for 
torch, was one of the first to go. A torch 
planning committee was set up on a com- 
bined basis under Brig. Gen. Alfred W. 
Gruenther (U. S. A.) , and the chief Brit- 
ish planners who had developed roundup 
were also absorbed in the new adven- 
ture. 112 

roundup planning came virtually to a 
standstill. 

The Period of Indecision 
(July-December 1942) 

President Roosevelt's decision to go 
ahead with torch 113 meant the indefinite 
postponement of roundup. That much 
was clear. It was not clear what effect the 
decision would have on grand strategy. 
The April agreements had provided for 

111 Cbl, JSM to Br COS, 31 Jul 42. OPD files, POD 
Super bolero, exec 1, tab 10; Memo, Marshall for 
WD Classified MC, Commander for torch, 6 Aug 42, 
OPD file 381, ETO, sec. 11, case 16. 

112 Yarman, torch, p. 18. See n. 107. 

113 xhe decision to do torch, as has been indicated, 
was primarily the President's, but Churchill had re- 
peatedly taken the initiative in urging it. In April 
1944 Churchill declared that he would "personally 
assume responsibility before God for the decision to 
do torch." See Ltr, Gen Wedemeyer to Gen Handy, 
13 Apr 44. OPD files, OPD Misc, bk. 18. 



a concentration on bolero in preparation 
for roundup in 1943. The July agreement 
rejected the principle of concentration 
and accepted instead a "defensive, en- 
circling line of action." Regarding those 
two notions as contradictory, the U. S. 
Chiefs of Staff felt that strategy had been 
overturned. The British Chiefs of Staff, 
on the other hand, recalled the earlier 
arcadia principles which had empha- 
sized preparatory operations (including 
attacks through the Mediterranean) in 
1942 before the main attack across the 
Channel. The torch decision was clearly 
not at odds with those principles. Accept- 
ance of "defensive, encircling action," 
they believed, meant only recognition of 
the need for a longer prelude to the final 
assault. They characterized the U. S. in- 
terpretation as heresy and were alarmed 
lest it take root. 114 But that it should take 
root was inevitable. For the U. S. Chiefs of 
Staff, under constant pressure to get on 
with the war against Japan, any delay and, 
more particularly, any uncertainty in the 
mounting of the decisive attack on north- 
west Europe inevitably unsettled the 
whole program for waging the war. More- 
over, the connection between torch and 
an eventual roundup was at best indirect. 
If a North African invasion might be re- 
garded, in the long run, as preparatory to 
a cross-Channel attack, the immediate re- 
lationship between torch and roundup 
would be competitive. Instead of building 
up forces in the United Kingdom, torch, 
if successful, would concentrate them in 
the Mediterranean. What then would be 
the next step? 



114 Cbl, Br COS to JSM, 13 Aug 42. Excerpts, sup- 
plied by British Cabinet Office Hist Sec, are in Hist 
Div files. 



THE ROOTS OF STRATEGY 



33 



Lack of a long-range plan was particu- 
larly awkward for the United States in 
1942 when mobilization was just getting 
started. The Army was in process of for- 
mation. Deployment had only just begun. 
Expanding productive capacity still had 
to be directed in accordance with priori- 
ties established to fit special military 
needs at least a year in advance. U. S. 
planners, studying the decisions of the 
London Conference, concluded that 
while they evidently abrogated the 
strategy implicit in the Marshall Memo- 
randum of April they did not formulate 
any new strategy. 

Through the summer and fall of 1942, 
the planners wrestled with the problem of 
calculating future needs in troops and 
materiel. In the weeks immediately pre- 
ceding the July conference the Combined 
Planning Staff had drawn up two deploy- 
ment papers, defining the basic combined 
strategy and translating it into terms of 
future commitments of troops and muni- 
tions in the various theaters of opera- 
tions. 115 The first study assumed that the 
present strategic concept was: "To con- 
duct the strategic offensive with maxi- 
mum forces in the Atlantic-Western Eu- 
ropean T heater at the earliest practicable 
date, and to maintain the strategic de- 
fensive in other theaters, with appropri- 
ate forces." The second study, based on 
this assumption and on its implementa- 
tion by the Marshall bolero plan, fore- 
cast that in April 1944 the offensive on 
the continent of Europe would be in 
progress. Neither study had been ap- 
proved by the Combined Chiefs when the 



115 CCS 91, Strategic Policy and Deployment of 
United States and British Forces, 7 Jul 42; CCS 97, 
Strategic Hypothesis for Deployment of Forces in 
April 1944, 24 Jul 42. 



torch decision forced reconsideration of 
the premises. 116 There began then a series 
of attempts to explain what had been de- 
cided at the London Conference. Neither 
the planners nor the chiefs could agree. 
What, in particular, was the extent of com- 
mitment of roundup? The British Chiefs 
of Staff, anxious to have the build-up of 
U. S. forces in the United Kingdom con- 
tinue at the maximum rate, wanted to 
hold to the assumption that in the spring 
of 1944 operations would be either in 
progress or immediately in prospect on 
the Continent. 117 The Joint Chiefs could 
not see anything in the July decisions that 
would warrant such an assumption. The 
vague promise to consider crossing the 
Channel at some time when "marked de- 
terioration in German military strength 
became apparent and the resources of the 
United Nations, available after meeting 
other commitments, so permit" 118 seemed 
to them an invitation to tie up troops and 
resources in the United Kingdom indefi- 
nitely with no assurance that they would 
be used in decisive action. The Joint 
Chiefs were in the meantime deeply con- 
scious of the need to prosecute the war 
against Japan. They were in fact again 
wondering whether they should not re- 
verse their basic strategy. The big issue to 
be decided, General Marshall argued in 
August, was whether the main U. S. effort 
should be in the Pacific or in the Europe- 
Middle East area. 119 The question which 
President Roosevelt a month earlier, be- 
fore the London Conference, had called a 
"red herring" was now, at least, an issue of 

116 JCS 26th Mtg, 28 Jul 42. 

117 CCS 97/2, 8 Aug 42. See discussion in CPS 
(Combined Planning Staff) 28th Mtg,,7 Aug 42. OPD 
file ABC 370 (7-2-42). 

118 CCS 94. 

119 JCS 28th Mtg, 11 Aug 42. 



34 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



all seriousness. Discussion of it centered 
largely upon the deployment of aircraft. 

By the agreement of July the U. S. 
Chiefs of Staff withdrew fifteen groups of 
aircraft from allotment to bolero with 
the avowed intention of using them in the 
Pacific. The clause was written into the 
agreement, General Marshall later ex- 
plained, only in order to remove the 
fifteen groups from the realm of com- 
bined discussion. 120 1 By assigning the 
groups formally to the Pacific, where by 
common consent strategy was primarily 
aU.S. responsibility, the Joint Chiefs re- 
served the right to dispose of them as they 
saw fit. When the whole question of 
future deployment was sent to the Joint 
Planning Staff, the fate of the fifteen 
groups uncovered a wide range of dis- 
agreement on basic strategy. 121 Naval 
planners wanted the planes shown de- 
ployed chiefly in the South and South- 
west Pacific as of April 1943, thus assum- 
ing a considerable reorientation of strat- 
egy toward increased offensive effort 
against the Japanese. Specifically they 
recommended deploying aircraft accord- 
ing to the priority torch, Middle East, 
South Pacific, Southwest Pacific, United 
Kingdom. Army planners, still insisting 
on the primary importance of the whole 
European area, wanted equal priority for 
torch, the Middle East, and the United 
Kingdom. They pointed out that the 
Navy's deployment schedules would de- 
lay the arrival of planes in the United 
Kingdom by one to three months. Gen- 
eral Arnold took up the cudgels to defend 
priority for the European theater. He 



120 JCS 36th Mtg, 6 Oct 42. 

121 JPS 32d Mtg, 31 Aug 42. OPD file ABC 370 
(7-2-42) . See also notes on this meeting, 2 Sep 42. 
OPD file ABC 381 (9-25-41) , sec. II. 



pointed out that, of fifty-four groups of 
planes allotted to bolero-roundup by the 
Marshall Memorandum, only twenty-five 
remained for the air offensive against 
Germany. He believed that under the 
terms of the July agreements Germany 
was still to be considered the first objec- 
tive of Allied strategy and that, therefore, 
no strengthening of the Southwest Pacific 
should be undertaken "until the modified 
bolero-torch plan has first been com- 
pletely implemented." 122 That modified 
plan, he believed, far from entailing a re- 
duction of air build-up in the United 
Kingdom put the chief burden of main- 
taining pressure against Germany on the 
air forces. The European theater, he be- 
lieved, had become an air theater. He 
further argued that it was specious to 
separate torch and the Middle East from 
the United Kingdom, since the bomber 
offensive from England in fighting the 
German Air Force and weakening the 
German military potential contributed 
directly to the success of torch. The de- 
bate between General Arnold and Ad- 
miral King on this subject continued into 
the fall without arriving at any resolu- 
tion. 123 Toward the end of October, plan- 
ners reviewing the matter found that of 
the fifteen groups three had already been 
deployed: one to Hawaii, one to the 
Middle East, three squadrons to the South 
Pacific, and one squadron to Alaska. The 
remaining twelve groups the Joint Chiefs 
then decided should be held in strategic 

122 Memo, Arnold for Marshall, 29 Jul 42. OPD 
file ABC 381 (9-25-41) , sec. III. 

123 See JCS 97 series which contains the gist of the 
running argument between General Arnold and Ad- 
miral King. For more detailed treatment of this sub- 
ject see W. F. Craven and J. L. Cate, eds., The Army 
Air Forces in World War II: II, Europe — Torch to 
Pointblank, August 1942 to December 1943 (Chicago, 
1949) , pp. 280-82. 



THE ROOTS OF STRATEGY 



35 



reserve. 324 They were as far as ever from 
knowing what Anglo-American strategy 
was to be. 

Although the Joint Chiefs did not 
agree on how far the bolero strategy had 
been or should be modified to step up the 
war in the Pacific, they were clearly press- 
ing for some modification. Even before 
the torch decision, the concept of the 
"strategic defensive" in the Pacific had 
been defined to include "limited offensive 
operations." 125 That definition was not 
at once accepted by the Combined Chiefs, 
but in the middle of August they did 
agree to a strategic hypothesis 126 which 
for purposes of troop deployment as- 
sumed that by April 1 944 there would be 
"an augmentation of forces in the Pacific 
by a readjustment of United States com- 
mitments in the European Theater . . . 
in order to further offensive operations 
against Japan." In context, however, this 
provision remained at least as vague as the 
earlier agreements. The same hypothesis 
also assumed that in 1944 preparations 
would continue for an invasion of the 
Continent as well as for deception pur- 
poses and in order to take advantage of 
a "favorable opportunity or emergency." 
Finally it was assumed also that North 
Africa in 1 944 would be occupied by the 
Allies and "intensified operations" would 
be "conducted therefrom." 

It was to this last assumption that the 
British Chiefs of Staff and the Prime 
Minister were giving their principal at- 
tention. In September Churchill outlined 
his conception of future strategy to the 

124 JCS 97/5, 26 Oct 42; JCS 39th Mtg, 27 Oct 42. 

125 CCS 91, cited n. 115. This paper, however, was 
never approved by the Combined Chiefs. 

126 CCS 97/3, Strategic Hypothesis as to Deploy- 
ment of Forces in April 1944, 14 Aug 42. Approved at 
CCS 36th Mtg. 



President. He was considering two possi- 
bilities after the assumed success of 
torch: attack into the "underbelly" by 
invasion of Sardinia, Sicily, or even Italy, 
and attack on Norway with the idea of 
giving more direct aid to Russia, roundup, 
he understood, was definitely off for 1943, 
but there still remained the possibility of 
an emergency cross-Channel operation 
and he believed that all the arguments ad- 
vanced for sledgehammer in 1942 would 
be even more valid in 1943-44. 127 The 
President was particularly interested in 
exploiting success in the Mediterranean. 
In November he proposed to Churchill 
that "you with your Chiefs of Staff in 
London and I with the Combined Staff 
here make a survey of the possibilities in- 
cluding forward movement directed 
against Sardinia, Sicily, Italy, Greece and 
other Balkan Areas, and including the 
possibility of obtaining Turkish support 
for an attack through the Black Sea 
against Germany's flank." 128 This was a 
welcome idea to the Prime Minister, who 
replied now that an attack against Sicily 
or Sardinia was an essential step follow- 
ing the cleaning up of North Africa. 129 

The idea, however, was anathema to 
the U. S. War Department. Maj. Gen. 
Thomas T. Handy, Assistant Chief of 
Staff, OPD, expressed adamant opposi- 
tion to the British views, toward which 
Roosevelt seemed to be leaning. He be- 
lieved that the Mediterranean operations 
were not logistically feasible, and that in 
any case they would not bring an Allied 

127 Cbl, Eden to Halifax, quoting Cbl, Churchill 
to Roosevelt, 22 Sep 42. C/S file ETO. 

128 Quotation from Cbl, Roosevelt to Churchill, in 
Cbl, Churchill to Roosevelt, 18 Nov 42, incl in JCS 
153, Plans and Operations in the Mediterranean, 
Middle East, and Near East. 

129 Cbl, Churchill to Roosevelt, cited n. 128. 



36 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



force within striking range of Germany. 
He deplored the concept of an emergency 
cross-Channel operation. "Under no cir- 
cumstance," he said, "can the U. S. agree 
to concentrate large forces in the U. K. 
there to be immobilized until the hypo- 
thetical break of German power as en- 
visaged in the British concept." The only 
sound alternatives in his view were 
roundup as originally planned with a 
specific target date, or abandonment of 
the whole idea of defeating Germany first 
and turning to the offensive in the Pa- 
cific. 130 

In December 1942 Handy 's views were 
echoed in a new strategic concept drawn 
up by a new committee, the Joint Stra- 
tegic Survey Committee (JSSC) —a body 
of three senior officers whose sole job was 
to maintain a large perspective on the 
major problems of combined direction of 
the war and advise the Joint Chiefs on 
matters of policy. 131 The first task of the 
JSSC was to recommend to the Joint 
Chiefs a course of action for 1943. It was 
high time that such a course was settled. 
The North African invasion, launched on 
8 November, met almost immediate suc- 
cess and raised with new urgency the ques- 
tion which the July decisions had left 
unanswered: What next? 

The core of the strategy recommended 
by the JSSC was concentration on the 
build-up of a balanced force in the United 
Kingdom for a decisive cross-Channel at- 
tack before the end of 1943. In the mean- 
time, an air offensive against Germany 
would be carried out from England, 
North Africa, and the Middle East. The 



130 Memo, Handy for CofS, 8 Nov 42, American- 
British Strategy. C/S file 381. 

«i JCS I49/D, Charter of the Joint Strategic Sur- 
vey Committee, 7 Nov 42. 



success of the North African operation 
would be exploited by air attacks on Ger- 
many and Italy "with the view to destroy- 
ing Italian resources and morale and 
eliminating her from the war. 132 This 
much of the JSSC policy was accepted by 
the Joint Chiefs. However, the commit- 
tee's recommendations for the Pacific, 
which amounted to continuation of the 
limited operations for defense and the 
minimum support of China, the Joint 
Chiefs drastically revised after a discus- 
sion in closed session. The revision greatly 
enlarged the concept of the strategic de- 
fensive against Japan. The Joint Chiefs 
declared that in the Pacific limited of- 
fensive operations would be carried out 
not only to secure Australia, New Zeal- 
and, Hawaii, Alaska, and the lines of com- 
munication but also "to maintain the 
initiative in the Solomon-Bismarck-East 
New Guinea area with a view to control- 
ling that area and involving Japan in 
costly counter operations." In Burma an 
offensive should be undertaken to open 
supply routes to China. 133 

When these views were put before the 
Combined Chiefs, the British replied 
with their first fully developed statement 
of what may be called their peripheral 
strategy for the defeat of Germany. 134 
Germany, they argued, needed a period 
of rest and recuperation; Russia was pre- 
venting that. The Allies therefore should 
do everything possible to assist Russia. 
Although Germany had to be reoccupied 

132 JCS 167, Basic Strategic Concept for 1943, 11 
Dec 42. 

133 JCS 167/1, 20 Dec 42. The revision was done in 
the JCS 46th meeting. The revised paper, JCS 167/1, 
was submitted to the Combined Chiefs of Staff as 
CCS 135. 

CCS 135/2, American-British Strategy in 1943, 
3 Jan 43. 



THE ROOTS OF STRATEGY 



37 



eventually, the Allies were not yet ready 
to attack the Continental fortress. "To 
make a fruitless assault before the time is 
ripe would be disastrous to ourselves, of 
no assistance to Russia and devastating 
to the morale of occupied Europe." Even 
a maximum concentration on building 
up for a cross-Channel attack in 1943 
would assemble only about twenty-five 
divisions in the United Kingdom by late 
summer, as compared to the original es- 
timated requirement in the Marshall 
Memorandum of forty-eight divisions. In 
contrast to the unattractive prospect of a 
shoestring operation across the Channel, 
the British Chiefs of Staff sketched the re- 
wards of pursuing operations in the Medi- 
terranean. "If we force Italy out of the 
war and the Germans try to maintain 
their line in Russia at its present length, 
we estimate that they will be some 54 di- 
visions and 2,200 aircraft short of what 
they need on all fronts. . . ." The opera- 
tions they had immediately in mind were 
the invasion of either Sardinia or Sicily. 
But their plans for the Mediterranean 
did not stop there. Following Italian col- 
lapse the next step would be the Balkans, 
although it was not clear just what action 
would be possible in that area. In the 
meantime, while concentrating offensive 
action in the Mediterranean, the British 
Chiefs wanted the United States to build 
up an air force of 3,000 heavy and me- 
dium bombers in England and also con- 
tinue to send ground divisions. They be- 
lieved that, without prejudice to other 
operations, the build-up in the United 
Kingdom could reach twenty-one divi- 
sions by the fall of 1943— a force sufficient 
to effect a re-entry into the Continent 
under favorable conditions. As for the 
Pacific the British approved operations 



to reopen the Burma Road, but they did 
not want any other expansion of the war 
against Japan. The reasons for tackling 
Germany first, they wrote, were still 
sound. 

Although these views were in direct 
opposition to the strategic principles pre- 
viously expressed by the U. S. War De- 
partment, the Joint Strategic Survey 
Committee found grounds for compro- 
mise. They believed that the ends sought 
by the British and the United States were 
the same: that is, to expel the Axis from 
North Africa, to eliminate Italy, and to 
do so by pressure rather than by occupa- 
tion of the Italian peninsula. They 
thought the Combined Chiefs were fur- 
ther agreed that no large-scale operations 
should be undertaken against southern 
Europe with the ultimate view of invad- 
ing Germany therefrom, and that, on the 
other hand, invasion of the Continent 
from the United Kingdom was essential 
to achieve decisive results. The chief dis- 
agreements seemed to be on the method 
of exerting pressure on Italy and on the 
timing of roundup. The U. S. Joint 
Chiefs wanted to force Italy's surrender 
by air bombardment from North African 
bases rather than by continued ground 
operations. The difference of opinion on 
roundup the JSSC thought might be due 
to misinterpretation. They criticized the 
British statement that concentration on 
the build-up for a cross-Channel attack in 
1943 would interfere with the build-up 
of air forces for the bomber offensive. On 
the contrary, the JSSC believed: "The air 
offensive will of necessity hold precedence 
over the buildup for the land offensive, 
and continue to do so until the results of 
the air operations and the deterioration 
of the Axis situation in general can be 



38 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



better estimated in relation to prospective 
land operations." They concluded that 
this difference could probably be ad- 
justed with the British without setting a 
definite date for roundup. 135 

This was the last formal word on U. S. 
strategy before the meeting of the Com- 
bined Chiefs of Staff with Roosevelt and 
Churchill at Casablanca in the second 
week of January, 1943. In its glossing over 
of deep differences of opinion and its 
ambiguous stand on the cross-Channel in- 
vasion, it reflected the lack at this time of 
a strong united conviction in the U. S. 
War and Navy Departments on what U. S. 
strategy should be. General Marshall ad- 
mitted this when the President asked 
whether it was agreed that they should 
meet the British at Casablanca "united in 
advocating a cross-Channel operation." 
Marshall replied "that there was not a 
united front on that subject, particularly 
among the planners." Even among the 
Chiefs of Staff conviction was not strong. 
In Marshall's opinion, they regarded an 
operation across the Channel more favor- 
ably than one in the Mediterranean, "but 
the question was still an open one." 136 

The Casablanca Conference 

When the Casablanca Conference 
opened on 12 January 1943 the Allies for 
the first time felt themselves able to 
choose the time and place for carrying the 
war to the enemy. Rommel had been de- 
cisively beaten in North Africa. Although 
the fighting in Tunisia continued, it was 
clearly only a matter of time before the 



135 JCS 167/5, 10 Jan 43. 

136 Minutes of a Meeting at the White House on 
Thursday, 7 January 1943, at 1500. OPD files, POD 
exec 10, item 45. 



entire North African shore would be 
cleared. The Russians were already on 
the offensive after stopping the Germans 
in Stalingrad. Generaloberst Friedrich 
Paulus with more than 250,000 Germans 
was encircled and helpless before the 
city; the attempt to relieve him had 
failed. In the meantime the Russians had 
launched two other offensives to clear the 
Don Basin. In the Pacific, Japanese ex- 
pansion had definitely been checked. The 
land and sea battles of Guadalcanal had 
both been won, although in January the 
island was still not entirely cleared. In 
the six months since the dark days of July 
Allied chances for victory had improved 
remarkably throughout the world. 

In the generally brightening picture, 
however, there were still dark spots. 
Darkest was the German submarine 
menace in the Atlantic. Allied shipping 
losses had reached alarming proportions, 
and there was evidence that the German 
submarine fleet was steadily growing. The 
loss of shipping from all causes up to the 
end of 1942 exceeded new construction 
by about one million tons. During the 
year, 1,027 ships were sunk by enemy sub- 
marine attack. 137 This was a threat of the 
first magnitude. Without control of the 
seas the great U. S. war potential could not 
even reach the theaters of war; the Allies 
could not undertake the amphibious op- 
erations that were necessary throughout 
the world in order to get at the enemy. At 
the first meeting of the Combined Chiefs 
of Staff at Casablanca, Gen. Sir Alan 
Brooke put the matter bluntly. "The 
shortage of shipping," he believed, "was 

137 Samuel E. Morison, The Battle of the Atlantic, 
September 19i9-May 194} (History of United States 
Naval Operations in World War II: I) (Boston, 
1947) , p. 410. Over 1,770 ships were lost from all 
causes during the year. 




CASABLANCA CONFERENCE. Seated: President Roosevelt and Prime Minister 
Churchill. Standing, front row, left to right: General Arnold, Admiral King, Gen- 
eral Marshall, Admiral Pound, Air Chief Marshal Portal, General Brooke, Field 
Marshal Dill, and Admiral Mountbatten. 



40 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



a stranglehold on all offensive operations 
and unless we could effectively combat 
the U-boat menace we might not be able 
to win the war." 138 

The other great weakness in the Allied 
position was a paucity of resources. De- 
spite the large war potential of the United 
States, the troops, shipping, supplies, and 
material actually on hand at the begin- 
ning of 1943 were sufficient only for rela- 
tively small-scale offensive operations in 
one theater. The major strategic question 
before the Combined Chiefs of Staff at 
Casablanca was where and when these 
slender resources could be committed to 
make the maximum contribution to the 
defeat of Germany. The basic issue was 
similar to the problem faced in July: 
granting that the ultimate aim was to 
strike the decisive blow at Germany 
across the Channel, could such a blow be 
struck in 1943? Put another way the ques- 
tion was: if the prospects for a successful 
roundup in the summer were dubious, 
was it not better to concentrate on the 
Mediterranean where immediate opera- 
tions offering a good chance of success 
were possible? 

Churchill had no doubt that this was 
the correct strategy. In November he had 
written the President: "The paramount 
task before us is first, to conquer the 
African shores of the Mediterranean and 
set up there the navy and air installations 

138 CCS 55th Mtg, 14 Jan 43. Bound volumes con- 
taining the official U.S. minutes of the Casablanca 
(symbol) Conference are in the OPD files. A single 
copy of the British official minutes is in the SHAEF 
SGS files. For all combined conferences the U.S. and 
British minutes are identical, but the latter include, 
in addition, the meetings of the British Chiefs of 
Staff at Casablanca. Since none of the minutes were 
stenographic, quotations here and throughout the 
text reproduce only secretarial summaries and para- 
phrases of the speakers' words. 



which are necessary to open an effective 
passage through it for military traffic; and, 
secondly, using the bases on the African 
shore, to strike at the underbelly of the 
Axis in effective strength and in the 
shortest time." His opinion in January 
1943 had not changed; he submitted then 
that "this surely remains our obvious im- 
mediate objective." 139 

It was not, however, obvious to Gen- 
eral Marshall. He felt that there was a 
danger of fighting the war on a day-to-day 
opportunistic basis, of taking a series of 
un-co-ordinated steps promoted by im- 
mediate tactical considerations without 
considering the over-all strategy by which 
the Germans could be defeated most ef- 
ficiently and in the shortest possible time. 
Granted that the victory in Africa opened 
the way for exploitation in the Mediter- 
ranean, the question still had to be asked 
how such exploitation would fit into "the 
main plot." Unless it could be proved to 
fit somewhere and constitute, moreover, 
the best means of advancing the plot at 
that time, it should not be undertaken 
no matter how tempting was the prospect 
of an easy military victory. 

In answer to General Marshall's ques- 
tion, there was one obvious approach. 
What else could be done? General Brooke 
developed the argument from necessity. 
He pointed out that, on the Continent, 
Russia was the only Ally with large land 
forces in action. Comparing the Russian 
effort with the twenty-one divisions that 
the Western Allies could hope to land in 
France in 1943, he urged that "any effort 
of the other Allies must necessarily be so 
small as to be unimportant in the over-all 

139 Note by Minister of Defence, 25 Nov 42, WP 
(42) 543, annex to 3d Br COS Casablanca Mtg. 
SHAEF SGS file 337/5, British Min of symbol Conf. 



THE ROOTS OF STRATEGY 



41 



picture." He contended that with limited 
resources the Allies could not expect to 
engage any considerable portion of the 
German land forces. The forty-four Ger- 
man divisions estimated to be in western 
Europe, he said, would "overwhelm us on 
the ground, and perhaps hem us in with 
wire or concrete to such an extent that 
any expansion of the bridgehead would 
be extremely difficult." 140 The argument 
on the relative futility of trying to influ- 
ence the course of the land battle in Eu- 
rope was lent considerable cogency by 
Molotov's prior request to General Mar- 
shall for the commitment in "the second 
front" of sufficient troops to draw off forty 
divisions from the Eastern Front. 141 This 
was ludicrously beyond the capacity of 
the Western Allies at that time. 

Even if a landing on the Continent 
were feasible, it was likely to be much 
more costly than an assault in the Medi- 
terranean. The British pointed out that 
the rail system of France would permit 
the simultaneous movement of at least 
seven German divisions from the east to 
reinforce the Atlantic Wall, whereas only 
one division at a time could be moved 
from north to south to meet an Allied at- 
tack in the Mediterranean. Use of the 
argument also revealed that direct assist- 
ance to Russia, the dominant considera- 
tion in July, was no longer a primary 
concern. It was further argued that such 
assistance could not be given, roundup 
preparations could not be completed be- 
fore the middle of August; it was more 
likely that the operation could not be 
mounted before early autumn. In that 
case, it would not support the Russian 
summer campaign. Finally, it was un- 

«° CCS 58th Mtg, 16 Jan 43. 
141 See above, p. 24. 



likely that the relatively small force which 
the Allies could put on the Continent 
would require the Germans to shift troops 
to defeat it. For the same reason it was 
doubtful whether even the German Luft- 
waffe could be brought to decisive battle. 
In sum, the argument was that roundup 
in 1943 would do no good and would in- 
vite disaster. 

The Prime Minister continued to 
think of a sledgehammer attack against 
the Continent in 1943, and in order to 
make it possible advised planning a Medi- 
terranean operation to be accomplished 
cheaply and quickly after the windup of 
the North African campaign. 142 The chief 
arguments for continuing attacks in the 
Mediterranean, however, were the im- 
mediate strategic advantages to be gained 
from them. In the first place, since there 
were several plausible objectives in the 
Mediterranean, a skillful use of feints 
might well force the Germans to disperse 
a large number of troops to meet wide- 
spread threats to Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia, 
the Dodecanese Islands, and the coasts of 
Italy and Greece before any operation 
was actually launched. In the second 
place, if Italy could be knocked out of the 
war (and that in the British view was the 
major immediate objective of any action 
contemplated in the Mediterranean) , the 
Germans would not only have to take over 
the defense of Italy but would also have 
to assume Italian commitments for de- 
fense of the Balkans. The Prime Minister 
was also drawn to the possibility of tempt- 
ing Turkey into the war. He felt that by 
clearing the Mediterranean a valuable 
selling point would be gained for negotia- 
tions with Turkey. If Turkey could be 
brought in, the British planned to use the 
142 1st Br COS Casablanca Mtg. See n. 138. 



42 



CROSS CHANNEL ATTACK 



country as a base from which to attack the 
Romanian oil fields and open the Black 
Sea route to Russia. They did not con- 
template the use of Turkish troops in at- 
tacking outside of Turkey. 

The British arguments in favor of the 
Mediterranean as the scene for 1943 at- 
tacks were, from a tactical standpoint, 
convincing enough, but they did not meet 
Marshall's objections that the Mediter- 
ranean could not be considered the main 
arena for meeting and fighting German 
military might. The Americans believed 
and consistently maintained that Ger- 
many's defeat "could only be effected by 
direct military action," 143 and that that 
action must be directed against the main 
body of the German Army in the west. 
The British thought Germany might be 
defeated primarily by destroying the 
enemy's will to resist through air attack 
and encirclement. They reasoned that 
"Germany's will to fight depended 
largely on her confidence in ultimate 
success." 144 Repeated victories by Russia 
and the Western Allies, even if on the 
perimeter of the German Lebensraum, 
would make Germany "realize that the 
prospects were hopeless." If despite that 
realization the Germans still refused to 
surrender, then direct attack from the 
west would be employed to deal the de- 
ciding blow. 

The U. S. Chiefs of Staff did not dis- 
count the possibility of a sudden German 
collapse. On the whole, however, they 
held firm to the conviction that neither 
the air offensive nor victories in the Medi- 
terranean could so significantly weaken 
the German's will to resist as to justify 
prolonged delay in mounting the final 

143 Admiral King speaking at CCS 58th Mtg. 

144 Air Marshal Portal at CCS 58th Mtg. 



attack. General Marshall stated the 
United States point of view in these 
terms: "It has been the conception of the 
United States Chiefs of Staff that Ger- 
many must be defeated by a powerful ef- 
fort on the Continent, carrying out the 
'bolero' and 'roundup' plans." Aid to 
Russia was important in order to absorb 
German strength, but "any method of ac- 
complishing this other than on the Con- 
tinent is a deviation from the basic plan." 
He then made it clear that if the Ameri- 
cans should agree to Mediterranean op- 
erations they would be accepting a tem- 
porary expedient compelled by immedi- 
ate circumstances. They would not con- 
sider that they had thereby approved in 
principle any departure from their over- 
all strategy. The question, Marshall sub- 
mitted, was: "To what extent must the 
United Nations adhere to the general 
concept and to what extent do they under- 
take diversions for the purpose of assist- 
ing Russia, improving the tonnage situa- 
tion, and maintaining momentum." That 
this distinction should not be missed, he 
asked pointedly whether the British 
Chiefs of Staff considered that an attack 
now against Sicily was a means to an end 
or an end in itself. Did they view it as "a 
part of an integrated plan to win the war 
or simply taking advantage of an oppor- 
tunity"? 145 

However, having drawn this line be- 
tween strategy and expediency, the U. S. 
Chiefs of Staff then agreed that circum- 
stances made a Mediterranean operation 
expedient. After some discussion the 
Combined Chiefs decided that, as be- 
tween the two possible invasions (Sar- 
dinia or Sicily) , Sicily was the more profit- 
able attack with the resources available. 
" 5 CCS 58th Mtg. 



THE ROOTS OF STRATEGY 



43 



The principal grounds on which the 
Americans conceded the argument were 
that they had large numbers of troops in 
North Africa which could not be readily 
employed outside the Mediterranean and 
that the Sicilian operation would "effect 
an economy of tonnage which is the major 
consideration." 146 Even in yielding, how- 
ever, General Marshall said that "he was 
most anxious not to become committed 
to interminable operations in the Medi- 
terranean. He wished Northern France to 
be the scene of the main effort against 
Germany— that had always been his con- 
ception." 147 

To this Air Chief Marshal Portal sig- 
nificantly replied that it was impossible 
to say where they should stop in the Medi- 
terranean since the object was to knock 
out Italy altogether. The difference of 
opinion had not been resolved. It had 
only been temporarily abated for the sake 
of arriving at a vital decision to maintain 
the momentum of the war against Ger- 
many. 

The question of how to proceed against 
Germany was posed at Casablanca in the 
context of the global war. While devoting 
all possible energy and resources to de- 
feating Germany, it was clear that the 
Allies could not afford simply to turn 
their backs on Japan. It has already been 
pointed out that the U. S. Chiefs of Staff 
since July had veered toward a decision 
to increase substantially the effort in the 
Pacific. They spelled out their new point 
of view to the British for the first time at 
Casablanca. The United States desired 
to maintain pressure against the Japanese, 

146 Marshall speaking at 2d anfa Mtg, 18 Jan 43. 
The anfa meetings were those presided over by the 
President and Prime Minister. 

i« CCS 60th Mtg, 18 Jan 43. 



General Marshall told the British Chiefs 
of Staff, in order to forestall another 
"series of crises," which had wrecked of- 
fensive plans in the early part of 1942. 148 
Maintaining pressure, of course, meant 
mounting attacks. Admiral King esti- 
mated that the attacks considered neces- 
sary would require roughly double the 
current U. S. forces in the Pacific. There 
was a danger, he pointed out, that with- 
out a great effort to assist Generalissimo 
Chiang Kai-shek China might pull out of 
the war. General Marshall added that 
helping China carry the fight against 
Japan "might have a most favorable ef- 
fect on Stalin." 149 The U. S. Chiefs of 
Staff therefore especially recommended 
pushing operations in Burma. 

The British frankly did not like this 
new attitude. In general they regarded 
the Pacific in much the same light as Gen- 
eral Marshall regarded the Mediter- 
ranean—an invitation to diversions from 
the main effort. While admitting in prin- 
ciple the need for unremitting pressure 
against Japan, the British Chiefs of Staff 
feared it would mean weakening the of- 
fensive against Germany. General Brooke 
tried to force the issue by stating it as a 
problem of reviewing "the correctness of 
our basic strategic concept which calls for 
the defeat of Germany first." He believed 
that the Allies could not take on Ger- 
many and Japan at the same time. The 
Americans denied any intention of alter- 
ing the basic strategy. On the contrary, 
"The whole concept of defeating Ger- 
many first," Marshall submitted, "had 
been jeopardized by the lack of resources 
in the Pacific." He recalled how the 
United States had nearly been forced to 

148 2d ANFA Mtg. 

149 CCS 56th Mtg, 14 Jan 43. 



44 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



withdraw from torch because of the dan- 
ger of reducing the slender resources in 
the Pacific. "A hand-to-mouth policy such 
as this was most uneconomical." It was 
essential to establish a sound position in 
the Pacific. That could not be done simply 
by defensive deployment. The Japanese 
themselves were busy consolidating and 
would certainly continue their attempts 
to advance if they were given a breathing 
spell. To forestall them the Allies must 
attack. Furthermore it would unduly pro- 
long the war if the United States waited 
until after the defeat of Germany be- 
fore securing positions from which the 
final offensive against Japan could be 
launched. 150 

The British at last yielded the point. 
They had already agreed to operations in 
Burma to open the road to China. They 
now approved plans to mount both over- 
land and amphibious attacks against the 
Japanese in Burma during 1943. They 
further agreed to the seizure of Rabaul 
and reserved decision on a proposed at- 
tack against Truk. 

Casablanca focused attention on 1943 
and concluded with a statement that the 
operations envisaged in 1943 were de- 
signed to bring about the defeat of Ger- 
many in that year. 151 This was for the rec- 
ord—but there were reservations. The 
Americans in particular were not san- 
guine about the prospects of victory in 
1943. General Arnold asked for a decision 
on what might be done in 1944 so that 
production schedules could be planned in 
advance. General Brooke replied that "we 
could definitely count on re-entering the 
Continent in 1944 on a large scale." 152 

«° CCS 60th Mtg, 18 Jan 43. 

"iCCS 155/1, Conduct of the War in 1943, 19 Jan 
43. 

™ 2 CCS 58th Mtg. 



The Combined Chiefs of Staff then pro- 
posed setting up a combined command 
and planning organization to plan for 
small-scale raids, a return to the Conti- 
nent in 1943 under conditions of German 
collapse, a limited operation in 1943 to 
secure a bridgehead on the Continent for 
later exploitation, and last "an invasion in 
force in 1944." 153 

Even though a 1944 roundup lay far 
ahead in a somewhat clouded future, the 
conference undertook to give preliminary 
shape to its ultimate command organiza- 
tion. Roosevelt proposed a British su- 
preme commander, but on Churchill's 
suggestion decision was postponed. At the 
moment the Prime Minister believed it 
was necessary only to select a commander 
to undertake the planning. This com- 
mander, he agreed, should be British, but 
he enunciated the principle that "the 
command of operations should, as a gen- 
eral rule, be held by an officer of the na- 
tion which furnishes the majority of the 
force." 164 At a later meeting the Com- 
bined Chiefs decided that it would be suf- 
ficient to select a British Chief of Staff, to- 
gether with "an independent United 
States-British Staff." 155 In examining 
this proposal the President questioned 
whether "sufficient drive would be ap- 
plied if only a Chief of Staff were ap- 
pointed." 158 General Brooke thought 
that "a man with the right qualities . . . 
could do what was necessary in the early 
stages." 157 It was left at that— a curiously 
vague and inauspicious beginning for the 

163 CCS 169, Organization of Command, Control, 
Planning and Training for Cross-Channel Opera- 
tions, 22 Jan 43. 

154 2d anfa Mtg. 

165 CCS 67th Mtg, 22 Jan 43. 

166 3d anfa Mtg, 23 Jan 43. 
i« Ibid. 



THE ROOTS OF STRATEGY 



45 



staff that would write the overlord plan 
and then become the nucleus of the su- 
preme headquarters that carried it out. 

If Casablanca did little to erase the 
vagueness surrounding the ultimate 
ground operations in northwest Europe, 
it at least arrived at more vigorous deci- 
sions on an air offensive from the United 
Kingdom. The Combined Chiefs directed 
the initiation at once of a combined U. S.- 
British bomber offensive aimed at "the 
progressive destruction and dislocation 
of the German military, industrial, and 
economic system and the undermining of 
the morale of the German people to a 
point where their capacity for armed re- 
sistance is fatally weakened." 158 

Most of the big decisions of the Casa- 
blanca conferences were made during the 
first week. General Brooke undertook to 
summarize these for the President and 
the Prime Minister: 

Measures to be taken to combat the sub- 
marine menace are a first charge on the re- 
sources of the United Nations. . . . Our 
efforts in defeating Germany will be con- 
cerned first with efforts to force them to with- 
draw ground and air forces from the Russian 
front. 159 This will be accomplished by opera- 
tions from North Africa by which Southern 
Europe, the Dodecanese Islands, Greece, 
Crete, Sardinia, and Sicily will all be threat- 
ened, thus forcing Germany to deploy her 
forces to meet each threat. The actual opera- 



158 CCS 166/ 1/D, The Bomber Offensive from the 
United Kingdom, 21 Jan 43. See below, Ch. VI. 

189 As noted above, it does not appear from the 
records that this was actually an important consider- 
ation. The strategic concept underlying Mediter- 
ranean operations was the much more general idea 
of attrition. 



tion decided upon is the capture of Sicily. 
At the same time we shall go on with prepar- 
ing forces and assembling landing craft in 
England for a thrust across the Channel in 
the event that the German strength in France 
decreases, either through withdrawal of her 
troops or because of an internal collapse. 
. . . The maximum combined air offensive 
will be conducted against Germany from the 
United Kingdom. By this and every other 
available means, attempts will be made to 
undermine Germany's morale. Every effort 
will be made, political and otherwise, to in- 
duce Turkey to enter the war in order that 
we may establish air bases there for opera- 
tions against Roumania. . . . 160 

As an outline of a strategic concept for 
the guidance of planning, these decisions 
were not much clearer than the decisions 
of July 1942. Certainly the extent of com- 
mitment to an eventual cross-Channel op- 
eration was no more specific. But in pro- 
viding for the establishment of a planning 
staff and in agreeing to push the bolero 
build-up despite continuing operations in 
the Mediterranean, Casablanca had, in 
fact, laid the groundwork for overlord. 
During the next six months, planning 
and preparations in the United Kingdom 
would of themselves clear much of the 
academic mist from the face of the cross- 
Channel project and convert it from a 
map problem into a plan of action for 
which the necessary men and material 
were on hand or in prospect. And this 
would happen while the debate on strat- 
egy continued through a series of com- 
promise decisions scarcely firmer than 
those with which the Casablanca Confer- 
ence closed. 

180 2d ANFA Mtg. 



CHAPTER II 



Outline Overlord 

(January— July 1943) 



Organization for Planning 

Several months elapsed before the Casa- 
blanca decisions to go ahead with 
roundup plans and preparations began to 
bear fruit. In these months the European 
theater convalesced slowly from the torch 
bloodletting, reasserted its independence, 
and turned again to face northwest Eu- 
rope across the English Channel. 

Recovery was difficult, for, ever since 
the torch decision, the Mediterranean 
had enjoyed a ruthless priority on all re- 
sources of war. As already noted, torch 
had drawn top U. S. and British personnel 
into what was first a planning group and 
later became Allied Force Headquarters 
(AFHQ) , which under Lt. Gen. Dwight 
D. Eisenhower carried out the North 
African invasion. At the same time Gen- 
eral Eisenhower retained command of 
ETOUSA, the headquarters controlling 
U. S. forces in the United Kingdom. De- 
spite the difficulties of this dual role the 
arrangement was preserved in order to 
insure that torch might draw at will on 
American resources in England. When 
Eisenhower moved to the Mediterranean, 
he appointed an executive deputy theater 
commander, Maj. Gen. Russell P. Hartle, 
to manage theater affairs in the United 
Kingdom. Hartle served in this capacity 



from 2 November 1942 to the end of 
January 1943. Then, according to plan, 
with torch firmly established, AFHQ 
and ETOUSA were formally split. Early 
in February Lt. Gen. Frank M. Andrews 
was named commanding general of ETO- 
USA. New theater boundaries gave ETO- 
USA responsibility for operations in the 
whole of Europe except the Iberian 
Peninsula, Italy, and the Balkans. 1 

It was a large theater but, when Gen- 
eral Andrews took over, it was occupied 
by only a handful of the U. S. Army. Be- 
fore torch swept the larder, U. S. forces 
by the end of September 1942 had built 
up in the United Kingdom to about 188,- 
000 men, including one armored and 
three infantry divisions. In the course of 
the next five months, torch took three of 
the four divisions, and a total of over 
150,000 troops. Although partially re- 
plenished by shipments from the United 
States, net U. S. strength in Britain had 
fallen to 107,801 by the end of February. 
This was the low point. The build-up 
thereafter began to recover slowly. How- 
ever, the one division passed over by 
torch, the 29th, remained the only divi- 



1 See [Robert W. Coakley] Organization and Com- 
mand in the ETO (The Administrative and Lo- 
gistical History of the ETO: Part II) , MS, Ch. III. 
Hist Div files. 



OUTLINE OVERLORD (JANUARY-JULY 1943) 



47 



sion in the United Kingdom until the fall 
of 1943. 2 

torch interfered even more drastically 
with the air corps build-up. The new 
Eighth Air Force was only beginning to 
accumulate its striking power when it was 
required to form the Twelfth Air Force to 
support torch. It surrendered to the 
Twelfth Air Force about half of its com- 
plement of aircraft (1,100 planes) and 
much of its key personnel including its 
commander, Maj. Gen. Carl Spaatz. Gen- 
eral Eaker, who took command of what 
was left, complained that still worse than 
the loss of planes was the loss of priority 
on organizational equipment, spare parts, 
and replacements of aircraft and per- 
sonnel. 3 The net result was that U. S. par- 
ticipation in the bomber offensive against 
Germany was set back eight or nine 
months and did not begin to become ef- 
fective until the spring of 1943. 4 

Stock piles of supplies and equipment 
that had been accumulated in the United 
Kingdom to maintain a cross-Channel op- 
eration were also drawn into the Medi- 
terranean, in some cases at a rate even 
faster than the movement of troops. Thus 
the level of supply of some items actually 
declined for the troops that remained in 
Britain. In addition monthly delivery of 

2 [Morton Yarman] torch and the European 
Theater of Operations (The Administrative and 
Logistical History of the ETO: Part IV), MS, pp. 
95ff. Hist Div files. Figures on troop strength are 
derived from Transportation Corps sources and in- 
dicate troops actually carried into and out of the 
United Kingdom. Slight discrepancies exist between 
them and the official troop assignment figures. A 
detailed account of troop build-up in the United 
Kingdom will be found in R. G. Ruppenthal, Lo- 
gistical Support of the Armies, a volume under prep- 
aration in this series. 

3 Rpt, Eaker to Arnold, Oct 42, cited in Yarman, 
torch, p. 119. 

* See below, Ch. VI. 



supplies to the United Kingdom which 
in September reached almost 240,000 
long tons had dropped in February to 
20,000 tons, bolero shipments began to 
pick up slowly in March but did not re- 
gain the September rate until July. 

In the meantime planning for roundup 
continued under the aegis of the Com- 
bined Commanders. The new combined 
planning staff ordered at Casablanca was 
slow in taking shape. The difficulties, 
though relatively minor, seemed to re- 
quire a large amount of discussion. Casa- 
blanca had been vague about both the 
mission and the form of the new staff. 
The specification that it would function 
under a chief of staff to an unnamed su- 
preme commander implied that the plan- 
ners could henceforth be regarded as the 
nucleus of the headquarters that would 
eventually control the operations. Beyond 
that, Casablanca recalled that a "special 
inter-allied staff" had already been work- 
ing "for some months" on cross-Channel 
plans, and suggested that "this special 
planning staff should be adapted to the 
new conditions and strengthened by the 
addition of American personnel. They 
should work, under the direction of the 
Supreme Commander (or his deputy un- 
til he is appointed) , in conjunction with 
the nucleus of his combined staff in Lon- 
don." 5 

But all this was not much more than 
a collection of working notes by the Com- 
bined Chiefs, reminding themselves in a 
general way of the nature of the problem 
they would have to solve later by means 
of a directive actually establishing the or- 
ganization they recognized as needed. By 

5 CCS 169, Organization of Command, Control, 
Planning and Training for Cross-Channel Opera- 
tions, 22 Jan 43. 



48 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



the end of February the British Chiefs of 
Staff had drafted such a directive, but it 
provided for a predominantly British or- 
ganization, not very different from the 
Combined Commanders. Addressed to a 
British chief of staff for cross-Channel op- 
erations, it directed him to report to the 
British Chiefs of Staff and charged him 
temporarily with the command responsi- 
bilities of the supreme commander, pend- 
ing the latter's appointment. 6 

This draft, as might have been ex- 
pected, was unsatisfactory to the Ameri- 
cans, who amended it to make the chief 
of staff for cross-Channel operations re- 
sponsible to the Combined Chiefs and 
limit his responsibility to planning. They 
added further that the Commanding Gen- 
eral, ETOUSA, should be considered as 
the direct representative of the United 
States Chiefs of Staff and that he should 
be consulted on all plans with respect to 
the employment of United States forces. 7 

The American amendments were 
promptly accepted by the British and the 
new directive was approved by the Com- 
bined Chiefs on 5 March. 8 However, the 
question of when the new staff should be 
organized and what planning responsi- 
bility it should have was not thereby 
settled. The British Chiefs of Staff recom- 
mended delay. They understood that 
bolero build-up plans had been changed 
and that few American troops would ac- 
tually be present in the United Kingdom 
during 1943. 9 They reasoned that the cur- 



«CCS 169/1, 25 Feb 43; cf. Cbl, Andrews to Mar- 
shall, 28 Feb 43. SHAEF SGS file 322.011/3. 

7 CCS 169/2, 2 Mar 43. 

8 CCS 74th Mtg. The directive was issued as CCS 
169/3/D. 

"COS (43) 105 (0) (Final), 8 Mar 43. Cf. Cbl, 
Marshall to Andrews, 22 Feb 43, cited in Min, COS 



rent arrangements for planning by the 
Combined Commanders were therefore 
adequate and should be continued. 10 
Under the circumstances they were re- 
luctant to spare the necessary senior offi- 
cers to form a special staff. Instead they 
suggested appointing a chief staff officer 
to the Combined Commanders, to be 
charged with "co-ordinating and driving 
forward the plans for cross-Channel op- 
erations this year and next year." This ap- 
pointment was actually made, pending 
American approval of the other sugges- 
tions. General Brooke selected Lt. Gen. 
Frederick E. Morgan, and the Prime 
Minister and the Secretary of State for 
War at once approved the nomination. 11 
The U. S. Chiefs of Staff agreed to Gen- 
eral Morgan's appointment but not to the 
reduced planning arrangements. The 
Combined Chiefs consequently turned 
again to consideration of the special com- 
bined staff. The directive of 5 March was 
reintroduced for fresh debate, and the 
month of April witnessed an interchange 
of proposals and counterproposals. Out 



(43) 28th Mtg (0), 24 Feb 43. Marshall wrote that, 
because of an urgency in another theater, no ship- 
ping would be available for lifts to the United King- 
dom in March and April and that the amount of 
shipping to be available in May could not be de- 
termined. Minutes also reproduce cable (COS (W) 
492) from British Chiefs of Staff to Field Marshal 
Dill asking Dill to elucidate the urgency in another 
theater and call to the attention of the U.S. Chiefs 
of Staff the British belief that such diversion of 
shipping from bolero constituted an abrogation of 
Casablanca decisions. All COS documents, hereafter 
cited, are located in SHAEF SGS files, unless other- 
wise specified. See Bibliographical Note. 

10 COS (43) 58th Mtg, 6 Mar 43. 

11 COS (43) 63d Mtg, 12 Mar 43. For General 
Morgan's background and experience, see Lt. Gen. 
Sir Frederick E. Morgan, Overture to Overlord (New 
York, 1950) , pp. 1-28. 



OUTLINE OVERLORD (JANUARY-JULY 1943) 



49 



of this came a revision of planning tasks. 
The conviction had grown since Casa- 
blanca that no operations against the 
Continent, even of limted scale, would be 
possible in 1943. The order to plan such 
operations was therefore struck out and 
instead planners were directed to draw 
up a plan to keep the Germans guessing 
about Allied intentions during the year. 12 

Although this change in mission was 
the only basic alteration made during 
more than a month of discussion, one 
issue was raised that revealed an impor- 
tant difference in attitude between the 
U. S. and British Chiefs. This was the 
question of the target date for the 1944 
cross-Channel invasion. Casablanca had 
specified only the year: "an invasion in 
force in 1944." The March 1943 directive 
read: "full-scale invasion in the spring of 
1944." The British struck out "spring" 
in their first attempt at amending the di- 
rective. The Americans, in their reply, re- 
stored it. The final directive compro- 
mised: "A full scale assault against the 
Continent in 1944, as early as possible." 13 

The Combined Chiefs finally issued a 
directive on 23 April. By that time the 
new organization was already well under 
way. General Morgan had been told in 
March that, whatever the final arrange- 
ments, the chief responsibility for plan- 
ning cross-Channel operations would be 
his. He was handed a file of planning 
papers and required to make recom- 
mendations on the form that he thought 



12 The debate can be followed in CCS 169 series 
and in CCS 80th and 81st Mtgs, 16 and 23 April 1943 
respectively, with additional reference to the British 
Chiefs of Staff (COS) papers and meetings already 
cited. Cf. Interv, F. C. Pogue with Gen Morgan, 8 
Feb 47. Hist Div files. 

18 CCS 169 series. 



the staff should take. On the understand- 
ing then that the supreme commander 
would be British, General Morgan recom- 
mended a British organization headed by 
a British chief of staff. He asked that the 
chief of staff be invested with "plenary 
powers, temporarily to impersonate the 
commander-to-be." This body should be 
the nucleus of an Allied headquarters, 
and General Morgan advised against the 
establishment of any British GHQ. He 
wanted, on the other hand, to have Brit- 
ish, Canadian, and American army head- 
quarters set up as soon as possible. Allied 
headquarters would deal directly with the 
armies until such time as the build-up of 
forces in the United Kingdom warranted 
the interpolation of army group head- 
quarters. The Allied staff, General Mor- 
gan felt, should effect a "complete amal- 
gamation of the British and American 
personnel, sub-branches being headed by 
American or British officers as found suit- 
able." On the other hand it would be de- 
sirable to keep British and American ad- 
ministrative affairs separate. He recom- 
mended a thorough integration of the 
various services throughout the echelons 
of command as low as army. Finally he 
asked for a grant to his own organization 
of "the highest possible degree of auton- 
omy, at least in the operational sphere." 14 
In short, what General Morgan had in 
mind was a compact planning and co-or- 
dinating staff which should enjoy the 
maximum freedom in carrying out its 
mission of preparing for cross-Channel 
operations and which would represent as 
completely as possible an integration of 



"All quotes from Memo, Morgan for Br COS, 
Cross-Channel Operations, 21 Mar 43, Annex to COS 
(43) 148 (0) , 23 Mar 43. 




GENERAL MORGAN, chief OVERLORD planner. 



OUTLINE OVERLORD (JANUARY-JULY 1943) 



51 



all services of both nations, combined to 
plan and ultimately to carry out the su- 
preme effort of the Allies against Ger- 
many. 

In general the staff established in April 
1943 conformed to General Morgan's 
concept. It was christened COSSAC after 
the initial letters of Morgan's new title: 
Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Com- 
mander (designate), and its principal 
staff officers met officially for the first time 
on 17 April. General Morgan was not im- 
mediately given either the executive 
power he asked for or quite the untram- 
meled direction he requested over "all 
offensive enterprises of whatever kind 
initiated from the United Kingdom." 15 
He was, however, granted sufficient power 
to tackle the task, and his attitude from 
the beginning was that of an executive 
rather than a planner. He told his staff at 
their first meeting that they should not 
consider themselves planners. "The term, 
Planning staff' has come to have a most 
sinister meaning— it implies the produc- 
tion of nothing but paper. What we must 
contrive to do somehow is to produce not 
only paper; but action." This would not 
be easy in view of COSSAC's lack of ex- 
ecutive authority, but despite that Gen- 
eral Morgan said: "My idea is that we 
shall regard ourselves in the first instance 
as primarily a co-ordinating body. . . . We 
differ from the ordinary planning staff 
in that we are . . . the embryo of the future 
Supreme Headquarters Staff." He wanted 
to model his staff on that of Marshal Foch 
at the end of World War I— "a really small 
body of selected officers who dealt with 
the major decisions on broad lines, the 
day-to-day work of the war being dele- 



Memo, Cross-Channel Operations, cited n. 14. 



gated completely to commanders of army 
groups." 16 

The original COSSAC staff was di- 
vided into five branches: Army, Navy, 
Air, Intelligence, and Administration and 
Logistics. Each branch, except Intelli- 
gence, was headed by two Principal Staff 
Officers, British and American. The In- 
telligence branch initially had only a 
single British head. The Principal Staff 
Officers, in turn, had separate staffs split 
vertically by nationality and horizontally 
into sections devoted to the preparation 
of the various plans for which COSSAC 
was responsible. Thus, for example, the 
Army branch headed by a British and an 
American Principal Staff Officer had two 
head planners (British and American) 
and under them British and American of- 
ficers in three sections working respec- 
tively on plan overlord, plan rankin 
(the plan for a return to the Continent 
under conditions of German collapse), 
and plan cockade (threat to hold the 
maximum number of German forces in 
the west in 1942). In addition there were 
three advisory sections. Naval and Air 
branches had more or less parallel divi- 
sions. The Intelligence and Administra- 
tive branches were subdivided by sea, air, 
and land; in the Administrative branch 
these subdivisions were doubled by na- 
tionality. The Principal Staff Officers 
were responsible for co-ordinating all 
joint problems before presenting them to 
COSSAC. Army, Navy, and Air branches 
prepared the outline appreciations and 
plans. The Intelligence branch was to 
supply the necessary information about 

18 COSSAC (43) 1st Mtg, 17 Apr 43. All COSSAC 
documents referred to are located in the collections 
of COSSAC papers and minutes of staff conferences 
in SHAEF SGS files. See Bibliographical Note. 



52 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



the enemy and the Administrative branch 
analyzed the resources called for. The Ad- 
ministrative branch was also responsible 
for developing administrative and logis- 
tical plans within the operational frame- 
work. 17 

This organization, though fairly satis- 
factory at first, became cumbersome as 
COSSAC's duties and American repre- 
sentation increased, and as the staff took 
on more the complexion of a supreme 
headquarters. With the appointment to- 
ward the end of June of Air Marshal Sir 
Trafford Leigh-Mallory as Air Com- 
mander-in-Chief pro tem, the COSSAC 
United States and British air staffs were 
amalgamated into a single staff. 18 This 
process of fusing nationalities into a 
single combined organization had started 
informally earlier. The Intelligence 
branch had had a single head from the 
beginning. The Administrative branch 
was integrated very soon after its forma- 
tion under Maj. Gen. N. C. D. Brownjohn 
(British). On 16 July, General Morgan 
decreed that a single Operations branch 
should be formed with sections grouped 
functionally but not separated by na- 
tionality. Complete integration of the 
combined headquarters, however, did not 
take place until the fall when Maj. Gen. 
Ray Barker, Deputy Chief of Staff, an- 
nounced the abolition of any division 
along national lines in favor of a purely 
functional organization. 18 



17 COSSAC (43) 12 (First Draft) , Provisional Or- 
ganization of COSSAC Staff, 25 May 43. 

18 See below. Leigh-Mallory had an anomalous ap- 
pointment to make decisions on air matters without 
prejudice to the Air Commander-in-Chief when 
appointed. See COSSAC 12th Staff Mtg, 26 Jun 43. 

10 COSSAC (43) 29th Mtg, 8 Oct 43. Barker was 
presiding in the absence of Morgan, who was visit- 
ing Washington. See below, Ch. III. 



It was impossible to keep COSSAC 
small. Even though the day-to-day work 
was in large part delegated to lower head- 
quarters, the co-ordinating functions of 
COSSAC continued to expand up to the 
time when it came of age in January 1944 
as the Supreme Allied Command. Not 
only did its planning duties increase to 
include, for instance, Civil Affairs and 
Publicity and Psychological Warfare, but 
it became imperative to assume the execu- 
tive obligations implicit in COSSAC's re- 
sponsibility for the cross-Channel opera- 
tion. Thus in the fall of 1943 COSSAC 
took over the task of co-ordinating raid- 
ing and reconnaissance in northwest Eu- 
rope in order to relate those activities to 
the ultimate invasion and to the 1943 di- 
version program. 20 A little later General 
Morgan assumed a similar responsibility 
for directing certain aspects of the parti- 
san and underground movements on the 
Continent, so far as these were strate- 
gically related to the COSSAC plans. 21 

While organization of the COSSAC 
staff proceeded, the British took steps to 
form their Army, Navy, and Air high com- 
mands for the invasion. The whole frame 
of the British field command was firmly 
established in the spring and early sum- 
mer, and each of the service headquarters, 
preceding similar U. S. organizations by 
several months, became the nucleus of the 



20 COS (43) 217th Mtg (0) , 16 Sep 43; COS (43) 
624 (0) , 13 Oct 43. 

21 COSSAC's authority included operational con- 
trol of all underground movements directed from 
London, the general direction of planning such 
movements, and the use and co-ordination of in- 
structions on target priorities. See COSSAC (43) 58 
(Final) , Proposals for Control by COSSAC of SOE/ 
SO Activities in Northwest Europe, 20 Oct 43. 
ETOUSA concurred by indorsement on 11 Nov 43. 
SHAEF G-3 file Ops C, 322.7 II; cf. COS (43) 237th 
Mtg (0) , 5 Oct 43. 



OUTLINE OVERLORD (JANUARY-JULY 1943) 



53 



eventual command over the combined 
invasion forces. 22 

By July the Second British Army, the 
First Canadian Army, and 21 Army 
Group all had functioning headquarters. 
The 21 Army Group, under command of 
General Sir Bernard Paget, took over 
from the Home Defence Command all 
planning, training, and executive func- 
tions in regard to British expeditionary 
forces. General Morgan at once estab- 
lished close liaison with Paget's staff and 
depended on them thereafter for detailed 
information and advice on the employ- 
ment of British ground forces. More than 
that, 21 Army Group became the prin- 
cipal advisers on ground tactics and all 
matters of army interest in the assault. 
This inevitably followed from the lack of 
any parallel U. S. organization. With V 
Corps still the highest U. S. tactical head- 
quarters in the United Kingdom, the 
U. S. Army participated in COSSAC plan- 
ning through theater headquarters, ETO- 
USA. In fact, since no table of organiza- 
tion was set up by the War Department 
for the U. S. half of the COSSAC staff, the 
American COSSAC planners functioned 
on detached service from the G-5 (plans) 
section of ETOUSA. Although both Gen- 
eral Andrews and his successor, Lt. Gen. 
Jacob L. Devers, 23 took an active part in 
the planning, they could not supply an 
organization parallel to the British for 
detailed examination of army problems. 
This deficiency was not remedied until 

22 Information on establishment of British head- 
quarters from Intervs, F. C. Pogue with Lt Col H. A. 
Pollock (13 Dec 46) , Gen Morgan (8 Feb 47) , Gen 
Barker (4 Oct 46) , and Gen Paget (6 Feb 47) . Hist 
Div files. 

23 General Andrews was killed in an airplane crash 
in Iceland on 3 May 1943. Devers was assigned to the 
European post after having served as Chief of the 
Armored Force at Fort Knox since 1941. 



October when First U. S. Army was es- 
tablished in England. 

The British similarly outdistanced the 
Americans in creating naval and air com- 
mands for invasion. On 5 May the British 
Admiralty issued a directive to Admiral 
Sir Charles Little, Commander-in-Chief, 
Portsmouth, appointing him Naval Com- 
mander-in-Chief (designate) for the 
cross-Channel operations being planned 
by COSSAC. 24 The appointment was in 
addition to his normal duties as com- 
mander of all British naval forces operat- 
ing out of the Portsmouth area. To han- 
dle his new assignment he was authorized 
a special planning staff to be known as 
Naval Staff (X). 25 His Chief of Naval 
Staff (X), Commodore J. Hughes-Hallett, 
who had commanded the naval force at 
Dieppe, became a member of the 
COSSAC staff in May. 26 

All U. S. naval forces operating from 
the United Kingdom were at that time 
under Admiral Stark, Commander-in- 
Chief Naval Forces in Europe. As in the 
case of the U. S. Army, tactical organiza- 
tion for the invasion was delayed until 
the fall when the Twelfth Fleet under 
Rear Adm. Alan G. Kirk was organized. 27 
Stark's headquarters, therefore, was 



24 Ltr, H. N. Morrison to Admiral Little. SHAEF 
SGS file 322.011/2. 

25 COS (43) 73d Mtg, 12 Apr 43. 

26 COSSAC Staff Conf, 1 May 43. SHAEF SGS file 
337/14. At the beginning of World War II, Hughes- 
Hallett was serving as second in command of the 
Norfolk. In 1940 he became deputy director of Local 
Defence at the Admiralty and followed this tour of 
duty with appointment as chairman of the Admir- 
alty's radar committee. He went to Combined Opera- 
tions Headquarters in 1942. In August 1943 Commo- 
dore Hughes-Hallett was replaced on the COSSAC 
staff by Rear Adm. G. E. Creasy. 

27 There had never been any question that the 
British, who supplied the bulk of the naval forces, 
would have the Allied naval command. 



54 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



charged with co-ordinating U. S. prepara- 
tions for overlord with ETOUSA and 
COSSAC, but had no specific tactical re- 
sponsibility. Admiral Stark, in addition 
to supplying COSSAC with a U. S. naval 
staff, sent liaison officers to Admiral 
Little's headquarters and also to the Ply- 
mouth and Milford Haven Commands 
which were the bases from which the U. S. 
naval assault forces would sail. 28 

The beginnings of a Royal Air Force 
organization for support of ground oper- 
ations on the European continent were 
made in March 1943. Air Marshal Portal 
then proposed the formation of a "Com- 
posite Group Headquarters" within the 
fighter command, both to test ideas for or- 
ganization for Continental operations and 
to function as a command if a German 
collapse should require a return to the 
Continent before detailed preparations 
could be made. The composite group, es- 
tablished on 19 March, grew rapidly into 
a full-scale tactical air force. 29 The Tacti- 
cal Air Force was formally recognized as 
existing from I June with Air Vice Mar- 
shal Sir John Henry d'Albiac in com- 
mand. 30 Again the U. S. parallel organiza- 
tion came late on the scene with the re- 
constitution in England of the Ninth Air 
Force in October. 31 

Size and Shape of the Attack 

When the COSSAC staff began work, 
it had a large amount of experience and 

28 Administrative History, U.S. Naval Forces in 
Europe, MS, pp. 237fF. Hist Div files. 

29 COS (43) 149 (0) , 23 Mar 43; COS (43) 248 
(0), 10 May 43. Also documents in British Air Min- 
istry Collection, excerpted by U.S. Air Forces His- 
torical Unit. 

30 D'Albiac was succeeded in January 1944 by Air 
Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham. 

31 For formation of U.S. commands for overlord, 
see below, Ch. V. 



data accumulated through two years of 
planning for roundup and through ex- 
perimentation in minor cross-Channel op- 
erations. The most important practical 
experience came from the Dieppe raid in 
August 1942. 32 The raid carried out 
under joint British and Canadian com- 
mand 33 and largely with Canadian troops 
—about one thousand British troops and 
fifty U. S. Rangers also took part— was 
originated in Mountbatten's Combined 
Operations headquarters in order to test 
amphibious tactics and techniques in a 
large-scale operation. The most ambitious 
attack on the French coast up to that time 
had been the raid on St. Nazaire in March 
1942. But St. Nazaire was still only a hit- 
and-run commando foray. Dieppe was 
planned as a miniature invasion, involv- 
ing the full use of combined arms and 
mass landings of infantry and armor with 
the object of seizing a beachhead. Except 
that there was no intention of holding the 
beachhead, Dieppe was drawn as closely 
as possible to the pattern of a full-scale 
amphibious attack. Specifically it was de- 
signed to test the newly developed LCT 
in landing tanks across the beaches and to 
find out whether it would be possible to 
take a port by direct frontal assault. It 
would also test naval organization in man- 
aging a considerable landing fleet (253 
ships and craft), and air organization in 
gaining air supremacy over the landing 
area and providing support for the 
ground troops. 

32 For full account of the Dieppe raid, see Col C. 
P. Stacey, The Canadian Army, 1939-1945: An Of- 
ficial Historical Summary (Ottawa, 1948) , pp. 64-86. 

33 The Military Force Commander was Maj. Gen. 
J. H. Roberts, commander of the 2d Canadian Divi- 
sion. Naval and air force commanders were British, 
Commodore J. Hughes-Hallett and Air Marshal Sir 
Trafford Leigh-Mallory respectively. 



OUTLINE OVERLORD (JANUARY-JULY 1943) 



55 




BRITISH LANDING CRAFT ON BEACH AT DIEPPE 



The raid was carried out on 19 August 
1942 as planned. Tactically, it failed. 
Very heavy enemy opposition resulted in 
severe casualties and the planned with- 
drawal nine hours after the touchdown 
was carried out under difficulties reminis- 
cent of Dunkerque. Besides nearly 1,000 
dead, about 2,000 Canadians were left be- 
hind as prisoners. Of 6,100 men embarked 
on the expedition only 2,500 returned, 
including an estimated 1,000 men who 
never landed. Although the cost was se- 
vere, the Dieppe raid provided some valu- 
able experience both for the tactics of 
amphibious operations and specifically 
for the planning for overlord. 34 As con- 
cerned the latter, Dieppe seems in gen- 

M For the effect of the Dieppe raid on tactical doc- 
irine, see below, Ch. V, 



eral to have impressed planners with the 
hardness of the enemy's fortified shell and 
the consequent need for concentrating 
the greatest possible weight in the initial 
assault in order to crack it. 

Whether as a direct result of Dieppe or 
not, roundup planning in the winter of 
1942-43 took a new turn. It had hitherto 
been assumed that attacks against the 
French coast should be widely dispersed 
in order to prevent the enemy from con- 
centrating on the destruction of any one 
beachhead. In November 1942, General 
Barker and Maj. Gen. J. A. Sinclair, chief 
British planner, started on another tack. 
In examining the requirements for a suit- 
able assault area for a major operation, 
they premised their study on the principle 
of concentration. Abandoning the round- 



56 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



up idea of many separate regimental and 
commando assaults, they assumed one 
main landing in an area capable of de- 
velopment into a lodgment for the whole 
Allied invasion force. 35 

They then analyzed the conditions es- 
sential for such an area. It first had to be 
within range of fighter planes based in the 
United Kingdom in order that air suprem- 
acy might counterbalance the unusual 
hazards of a major amphibious assault. At 
the time the study was made, fighter cover 
extended only over the coast between 
Cherbourg and Knocke (in the north- 
west corner of Belgium) . Further to in- 
sure air supremacy, the area selected had 
to contain airfields or sites for airfields 
which could be made available to Allied 
fighters at an early date. 36 

The beach defenses had to be capable 
of reduction by naval fire, air bombard- 
ment, or airborne troops. It was desirable, 
obviously, that the beach defenses be as 
weak as possible, but the essential thing 
was that there should be a reasonable 
chance of neutralizing them. This re- 
quirement, in fact, ruled out only small 
beaches dominated by well-defended 
cliff positions and areas, such as the 
Netherlands, where the enemy could de- 
fend by large inundations which the 
Allies had no means of combatting. 

i he selected assault area must permit 

35 Capt. M. McLaren, Secretary to the Combined 
Commanders, pointed out that the study reversed the 
roundup concept of maximum dispersion in order 
to prevent the enemy from concentrating on the 
destruction of any one bridgehead. Memo, Opera- 
tion overlord — Main Appreciation, 12 Dec 42. 
SHAEF G-3 file 370-43. 

36 This and the following four paragraphs are 
from CC (42) 108, Selection of Assault Areas in 
a Major Operation in Northwest Europe. A late 
draft (5 Feb 43) is in SHAEF SGS 61e, Combined 
Commanders Papers. 



the Allied rate of build-up to compete 
with that of the enemy. From this, other 
conditions followed. The area had to con- 
tain one major port that could be cap- 
tured quickly. It was also desirable that a 
group of ports be close at hand with suffi- 
cient combined capacity, when de- 
veloped, to support the entire force in 
later phases of the operation. Since there 
was no hope of being able to put captured 
ports into workable condition until about 
three months after the landings, it was 
equally important that the selected as- 
sault area have beaches suitable for pro- 
longed maintenance operations. They 
therefore had to be sheltered from the 
prevailing winds in order to insure con- 
tinuous operations even in bad weather. 
More important, the beaches had to have 
sufficient capacity to receive and rapidly 
pass inland the required vehicles and sup- 
plies. The critical considerations here 
were not only the size and firmness of the 
beaches but also the existence of adequate 
vehicle exits and adequate road nets be- 
hind the beaches. 

Having established the conditions es- 
sential to an assault area for a major in- 
vasion, Generals Sinclair and Barker then 
proceeded to examine various coastal 
sectors, matching each with the ideal. 
None fitted. Only one came close— the 
sector around Caen. The Netherlands was 
ruled out because it was out of the range 
of fighter cover, because its beaches were 
too exposed and, being backed by sand 
dunes, had inadequate exits for vehicular 
traffic. Finally the Germans could too 
easily defend them by flooding. A scarcity 
of beaches— and those small and exposed 
—disqualified Belgium unless enemy re- 
sistance was comparatively light and good 
weather could be counted on for at least 



OUTLINE OVERLORD (JANUARY-JULY 1943) 



57 



a week to allow capture of the group of 
ports from Dunkerque to Zeebrugge. Ac- 
tually German defenses of the sector were 
very strong, and therefore the feasibility 
of invading it would depend on a sub- 
stantial lowering of enemy morale. The 
Pas-de-Calais coast, which roundup plan- 
ners had regarded as the most likely as- 
sault area, was rejected for a major oper- 
ation because the beaches were exposed, 
strongly defended, and dominated by 
high ground on which the enemy had em- 
placed artillery. The larger beaches had 
few exits, and the ports in the area had in- 
sufficient capacity to maintain a large 
force. Inadequate beaches ruled out the 
Seine sector as well, except as an area for 
subsidiary assault. It was noted that in 
order to use the ports of Le Havre and 
Rouen both banks of the Seine would 
have to be cleared. On the other hand, 
simultaneous attacks on both sides of the 
Seine could not be mutually supporting 
and would therefore be subject to defeat 
in detail. The Seine sector could be at- 
tacked with a reasonable chance of suc- 
cess only after a main assault in the Caen 
area. Brittany failed to meet any of the 
major requirements except as to port ca- 
pacity. It was above all too far from Ger- 
many and a lodgment there would result 
in long lines of communication in the ad- 
vance east. 

The process of elimination left only the 
Caen sectors and the Cotentin Peninsula. 
Caen was desirable from every standpoint 
except the lack of adequate ports. It was 
therefore suggested that Caen be made the 
area of main attack with a subsidiary at- 
tack on the east coast of the Cotentin to 
insure the early capture of Cherbourg. 
Even Cherbourg, however, could not 
supply a large invasion force, and it was 



therefore deemed necessary to seize the 
Seine ports or the Breton group in addi- 
tion. Decision on which group to secure 
would depend on the final objectives of 
the operation and the degree of enemy 
opposition expected. There were objec- 
tions to both. To take the Seine ports 
would necessitate crossing the river. De- 
pendence on the Brittany ports, as al- 
ready noted, would mean long lines of 
communications. This risk, planners 
thought, would be acceptable only if it 
were considered "essential to build up a 
large force west of and protected by the 
River Seine." 

This analysis revised during the early 
months of 1943 was at last approved by 
the Combined Commanders on 1 March 
and constituted the basic appreciation for 
subsequent cross-Channel planning. The 
immediate result was a new outline plan 
—the final effort of the Combined Com- 
manders before they turned over the 
planning job to COSSAC. The new plan, 
skyscraper, provided simultaneous land- 
ings on the Caen and east Cotentin 
beaches with four divisions in the assault 
and six in the immediate follow-up. It 
required in addition eighteen Com- 
mandos 37 for special assault missions and 
four airborne divisions to interfere with 
the movement of enemy reserves. After 
the initial beachhead, including Cher- 
bourg, had been established, planners as- 
sumed the next move would be to secure 
additional port capacity for the build-up. 
They advised advance toward the Seine 
ports, but thought the capture of Le 
Havre might well require a new landing 
northeast of the port in support of the 

37 A Commando was a specially trained and 
equipped British unit roughly equivalent in strength 
to a U.S. rifle battalion. 



58 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



overland attack. Advance would then 
continue northeast to open the port of 
Antwerp and establish the armies be- 
tween the Pas-de-Calais and the Ruhr. 38 

The avowed object of skyscraper was 
to provide a gauge of some of the major 
problems to be faced in the cross-Channel 
invasion. Chief of these was the large re- 
quirement for resources, especially in 
landing craft. Planners stated the case un- 
compromisingly. The requirement for 
ten divisions simultaneously loaded was 
an absolute minimum, they said. Even 
that would enable the Allies to take on 
only the present enemy force in the west, 
estimated to consist of an average of two 
coast defense divisions to each hundred 
miles of assault area. Furthermore the ten- 
division assault force would suffice only 
if enemy troop movements could be com- 
pletely blocked. 

skyscraper set its sights deliberately 
high. It was an attempt to break the dead- 
lock which the tangle of interrelated con- 
tingencies had imposed on roundup plan- 
ning. Planners were pressing now for a 
decision. "If we are to plan and prepare 
for the invasion of Western Europe 
against opposition," they wrote, "it must 
be on the understanding that the re- 
sources considered necessary are fully 
realized and that it is the intention to pro- 
vide them." Therefore, they concluded, 
"To defer the decision is to decide not to 
be ready." But the sights 'seem to have 
been set too high. The British Chiefs of 
Staff argued that the vague notion of "de- 
termined opposition" could not be used 
as a criterion for the number of assault 
divisions needed. 39 They decided not to 



38 Abstract from skyscraper Plan. Hist Div 61es. 
88 COS (43) 61st Mtg (0) , 30 Mar 43. 



consider the general principles enunci- 
ated in the plan. 40 

Some of the skyscraper ideas carried 
over into the overlord planning, since 
many of the Combined Commanders' 
planners were transferred to the COSSAC 
staff. On the other hand, rejection of the 
skyscraper approach by the British 
Chiefs of Staff emphasized a break in the 
planning. The idea of pressing for in- 
creased resources seemed to have been 
discouraged in advance. In any case a new 
beginning and a new approach were re- 
quired. General Morgan made this point 
explicit when he told his staff to consider 
that much useful data had been collected 
but that no plan worthy of the name 
existed. They were to make the maximum 
use of previous planning studies in order 
to save time, but the problem, Morgan in- 
sisted, should be seen as something new- 
something to be tackled afresh as though 
no planning had gone before. He re- 
turned therefore to first principles and re- 
created the broad strategic frame. 41 

The over-all conception he presented 
was of a major land campaign culminat- 
ing in the invasion and occupation of 
Germany with forces totaling possibly a 
hundred divisions. The opening picture 
was of Anglo-Canadian armies concen- 
trated in the southwest, and the main 



40 Formal grounds for tabling the paper were that 
COSSAC was about to begin planning for "definite 
operations" and that consideration of general prin- 
ciples would therefore be a waste of time. General 
Paget, commander of 21 Army Group, and one of the 
Combined Commanders, believed, however, that 
the British Chiefs of Staff were generally unfavorable 
to the plan because of the huge bill for resources. 
His interpretation is persuasive. See Gen Paget, Notes 
on the History of Planning for Operations in North- 
west Europe, 30 Dec 43. Hist Div files. 

41 COSSAC (43) 11, Plan for a Full Scale Invasion 
of the Continent in 1944, 25 May 43. 



OUTLINE OVERLORD (JANUARY-JULY 1943) 



59 



army waiting in the United States pre- 
paring to cross the Atlantic. The need for 
maximum fighter cover dictated that the 
assault should be made on the left flank, 
opposite the British forces. American 
forces might then be brought into the 
bridgehead and sent westward to take the 
ports through which the main American 
army from the United States could be dis- 
embarked. Since this plan would involve 
tangling administrative lines, it would 
perhaps be better "to contemplate the 
Anglo-Canadian bridgehead as the left 
flank guard of American assaults to be de- 
livered further to the west." In any case 
the need for opening the Atlantic ports 
meant that the initial assaults were to be 
given a westerly rather than an easterly 
trend. 42 

The broad perspective led General 
Morgan to only one positive conclusion 
as to the choice of an assault area: it must 
be in France. Although both France and 
the Low Countries contained sufficient 
deepwater ports to receive the American 
armies, it was not reasonable to suppose 
that the ports of the Netherlands and 
Belgium could be opened up by assault- 
ing forces. "To demand of the armies of 
the advanced guard that they should cover 
the use of the group of ports of the Low 
Countries is to demand that they should 
in effect themselves fight the battle of 
Germany." 43 

Landing Craft Requirements 

Neither the precise area of the assault 
nor the question of whether one or many 

42 Note that this is the opposite of the skyscraper 
principle of pushing northeastward in order to main- 
tain the pressure of the attack on Germany. 

43 COSSAC (43) 11, cited n. 41. 



landings should be made was decided at 
this time. In large part, these decisions 
depended on the approximate scale of 
the operation. While General Morgan 
was conceiving the broad outlines of the 
operation, his staff worked to crystallize 
the concept in terms of landing craft and 
men. This problem brought them right 
back to basic difficulties faced by all the 
cross-Channel planners and solved by 
none of them. How could one calculate 
the size of the assault? What were the de- 
termining factors? The Combined Com- 
manders had picked a figure of ten divi- 
sions, four in the assault and six preloaded 
to insure a continuous build-up during 
the time the craft used in the assault were 
returning or undergoing repairs for sub- 
sequent trips. All ten divisions were to 
land on the first four tides— that is, before 
the end of D plus l. 44 But the only basis 
for this requirement was the Combined 
Commanders' feeling that "a return to the 
Continent against determined opposi- 
tion" could not be successful with a 
smaller force. In rejecting the whole sky- 
scraper idea, the British Chiefs of Staff 
pointed out that one could not estimate 
the number of divisions needed to over- 
come "determined opposition." 46 

In fact, however, no better estimate was 
possible. It was obviously absurd to fore- 
cast a year in advance the strength and 
nature of enemy opposition. The only 
possibility was to plan on the basis of Ger- 
man dispositions as they existed in the 
spring of 1943, assume a normal distribu- 

44 skyscraper Plan; Memo, Gen Barker for Execu- 
tive Planning Section (ETOUSA) , Requirements of 
Landing Craft, 9 Mar 43. SHAEF SGS file 560 I. 

45 COS (43) 61st Mtg (0) , 30 Mar 43. Note that 
the British Chiefs of Staff apparently reversed them- 
selves on this point at the Washington Conference 
in May. See below, section following. 



60 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



don of reserves, suppose that German 
commanders would take the best possible 
steps for defense, and add hypothetical 
calculations from logistical tables on the 
capacity of the enemy to move in rein- 
forcements from the east. The net calcu- 
lation, however, could easily mean noth- 
ing, since the number of unknown factors 
was very large and there was ample time 
for the whole picture to change com- 
pletely before the Allies were ready to at- 
tack. 

The attempt to find how large an as- 
sault would be required for the job thus 
broke down on the impossibility of judg- 
ing with any realism the size of the job. 
The alternative was to calculate how large 
an assault might be practicable with re- 
sources likely to be available and then 
try to see how an operation of such size 
might be assured a reasonable chance for 
success. In May Commodore Hughes- 
Hallett, chief British naval planner, made 
a guess pending lengthy examination. 
He thought landing craft might be pro- 
cured for simultaneous assault by four 
divisions including 16,000 men in ar- 
mored landing craft and 12,000 vehicles 
in LST's and similar ships. A fifth divi- 
sion might be preloaded to land within 
twenty-four hours. 46 But an estimate of 
the' availability of craft was almost as 
shaky as an estimate of the need for them. 
Writing to General Handy in April, Gen- 
eral Barker said: "Provision of landing 
craft . . . constitutes a continuing bottle- 
neck which not only has to be met ma- 
terially, but must also be overcome from 
the psychological and political aspects as 
well. In other words a shortage . . . can 
readily be made the excuse for failure 

46 Memo, 1944 Hypothesis, 15 May 43. SHAEF SGS 
file (1944 Operations) . 



to do operations which otherwise might 
prove practical." He asked General 
Handy for a clear statement on U. S. pro- 
duction and assurance that the United 
States could provide the necessary craft 
for a cross-Channel attack. 47 

It was not easy to supply assurances on 
U. S. production of landing craft. In the 
first place the whole idea of using specially 
constructed craft in large numbers for 
amphibious operations was so new that 
no generally accepted doctrine had been 
developed. Thus in the spring of 1943 
Admiral King was reported as saying: 
". . . apparently now it is felt assaults can- 
not be made without specially designed 
craft." At the same time it was suggested 
that the landing craft bottleneck might 
be partly bypassed by larger use of "make- 
shift" craft such as barges and river 
"steamers." 48 

Except for small personnel boats the 
U. S. Navy had had no landing craft at 
all until 1937 when it experimented un- 
successfully with a tank lighter. The first 
successful vehicle landing craft was de- 
veloped by Andrew J. Higgins, a New 
Orleans boatbuilder, but was not ordered 
by the Navy until September 1940 and 
not contracted for in large numbers until 
spring of 1942. During the first years of 
the war the majority of naval leaders re- 

47 Memo, Landing Craft for Cross-Channel Opera- 
tions, 20 Apr 43. SHAEF SGS file 560 I. 

48 JCS 71st Mtg, 30 Mar 43. The British planned to 
use barges and coasters in the invasion and had 
pointed out in April that they were busy converting 
barges for such use. They did state, however, that al- 
though miscellaneous vessels might be useful they 
ought not to be employed in the first assault. "There 
is no substitute for specialized landing craft in an 
assault against the most heavily defended coastline in 
the world, despite the fact that the morale of the 
German Army may have deteriorated sufficiently to 
justify an assault on the Continent." Note by Br 
JPS, CPS 63/1, 16 Apr 43. 



OUTLINE OVERLORD (JANUARY-JULY 1943) 



61 



sisted the development of landing craft as 
a foolhardy gamble with an untried 
weapon and a waste of resources badly 
needed for naval construction. 49 

The initiative in development of large 
landing craft was left to the British who, 
for obvious reasons, were much more 
seriously impressed with the need for such 
craft. British experimentation with 
specialized landing craft began after 
World War I as a result of the invention 
of the tank. Whereas experience had 
seemed to show that personnel could be 
landed on hostile shores by the regular 
vessels of the fleet, the tank clearly could 
be beached only from a special ramp boat. 
In 1920 the British produced a tank 
lighter which, with very few changes, be- 
came the LCM (1) (Landing Craft, Mech- 
anized). Too small to carry the medium 
tanks used in World War II, the LCM (1) 
was nevertheless kept in extensive use for 
transporting other vehicles and supplies. 
In 1938 the British at last abandoned the 
theory that special craft were not needed 
to land troops. In that year they produced 
the prototype of the LCA (Landing Craft, 
Assault), a small wooden armored craft 
for ship-to-shore movement of assault in- 
fantry. The first large orders for LCA's 
were placed in September 1939, and sub- 
contracted to small boat and yacht firms. 
Engines for both the LCM and LCA came 
from the United States. 50 

The LCM and LCA were designed for 
raiding operations. Production was un- 

49 Lt. Hamilton S. Putnam and Lt. Craig A. Liv- 
ingston, Commander-in-Chief Atlantic Fleet, Am- 
phibious Training Command (United States Naval 
Administration in World War II) , MS, Vol. I, Ch. 
VIII. Navy Dept files. 

60 This and subsequent information on British 
landing craft production was supplied by the British 
Admiralty. 



dertaken only on a very small scale and 
mostly outside the established shipbuild- 
ing industry which was already working 
to capacity in attempting to meet vastly 
expanded requirements for merchant and 
naval war vessels. In June 1940 Prime 
Minister Churchill personally ordered 
the design and production of the first 
landing craft capable of carrying expedi- 
tionary forces. Worked out by the Com- 
bined Operations staff within the British 
Admiralty, this became the LCT (Land- 
ing Craft, Tank), designed to carry three 
40-ton tanks and disembark them in three 
and a half feet of water on steep-gradient 
beaches such as those of Scandinavia. The 
first LCT was delivered in November 
1940. Subsequent development of the 
LCT was comparatively rapid. In De- 
cember 1941 orders were placed for the 
fourth model, LCT (4), the first landing 
craft designed specifically for the shallow- 
gradient beaches of the French coast. It 
was to be able to carry six medium tanks 
and to be capable of rapid mass produc- 
tion. 51 

While the LCT— the basic vehicle-car- 
rying landing craft of World War II— 
was being perfected, the British also be- 
gan experimenting with a much larger 
ocean-going ship capable of discharging 
vehicles directly across the beach. Three 
shallow-draft oilers used on Lake Mara- 
caibo in Venezuela were procured and 
converted to prototypes of the LST 
(Landing Ship, Tank) by cutting off 

51 The production lag in the LCT (4) is worth 
note. When the boat was ordered the United States 
had just come into the war; planners in England had 
worked out only the first tentative plan for an 
eventual cross-Channel attack. When the first craft 
was delivered in September 1942, the 1942 season for 
amphibious operations in the Channel was already 
coming to a close. 



62 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



the bows, installing bow ramps, and 
scooping out the insides to accommodate 
vehicles. Though designed with shallow 
draft, neither the converted Maracaibo 
nor the first model LST proved satis- 
factory. Improvements were gradually 
worked out through experimentation and 
study by both British and American de- 
signers. The final result was the LST (2), 
an ocean-going ship capable of grounding 
and discharging vehicles on the shallow- 
gradient beaches of France. The United 
States undertook the entire production 
of the LST (2) for both British and 
American use. 

In the spring of 1942 the United States 
began a program for the mass-production 
of landing craft for the 1943 cross-Chan- 
nel attack as envisaged in the Marshall 
Memorandum. The difficulties of ex- 
panding a comparatively small landing 
craft fleet into one for major amphibious 
operations were enormous. The Navy, 
which was to co-ordinate the program, 
and many of the shipyards that were to 
carry it out were almost wholly lacking in 
experience. The program was superim- 
posed on already swollen naval construc- 
tion schedules. Contracts therefore had 
to be let to small boatyards and manufac- 
turing companies for whom the construc- 
tion problems posed were unprecedented. 
The LCT's and LST's were built on in- 
land waterways and it became necessary 
to find and train crews to sail them to 
Atlantic ports. The U. S. Coast Guard, 
which formed the Ferry Command in 
July, undertook this task with almost no 
technically competent personnel. Typical 
of the greenness prevailing to some extent 
throughout the landing craft program was 
the story of a young Ferry Command 
skipper who, piloting his craft down the 



Niagara River at night, missed the turn- 
ing into the Erie Canal and, despite warn- 
ings from the shore, sailed serenely toward 
the falls. By luck he ran aground a few 
hundred yards from the brink. He 
blandly reported afterward that he had 
seen the warning lights at the point where 
he missed the turning but had paid no 
attention because he could not figure out 
what they meant. 52 

Lack of experience delayed the pro- 
gram but did not seriously jeopardize it. 
A more serious difficulty, and one which 
persisted throughout the war, since it had 
no final answer, was the establishment 
of priorities. The material requirements 
for landing craft, chiefly steel and marine 
engines, had to compete with other high- 
priority building programs. The con- 
struction of a landing craft fleet in 1942 
was completed only by the issuance of 
emergency directives and the creation of 
special expediting machinery. When the 
immediate emergency passed with the 
successful landings in North Africa, land- 
ing craft construction had to give way in 
the competition for materials to other 
war production v/hich could claim greater 
urgency. The President's January list of 
"must" programs for 1943 omitted land- 
ing craft. Escort vessels and merchant 
shipping were a more immediate neces- 
sity. The need for escort vessels, in fact, 
was considered so urgent in the early 
months of 1943 that the machinery which 
had been set up to expedite production 
of landing craft was diverted to perform 
the same function for destroyer escorts. 
The 1 942 landing craft program ended as 
scheduled in February with a record pro- 
duction of 106,146 light displacement 

52 Putnam and Livingston, Amphibious Training 
Command, cited n. 49. 



OUTLINE OVERLORD (JANUARY-JULY 1943) 



63 



tons. From then on it declined and in May 
was stabilized at about 60,000 tons 
monthly. This figure was carried forward 
for deliveries during the first half of 
1944. 63 

In March 1943 the question of increas- 
ing the production of landing craft, par- 
ticularly for a cross-Channel invasion, 
came before the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The 
British at that time asked the United 
States to examine the possibility of in- 
creasing production, because a shortage 
of LCT's and LST's was likely to make 
a cross-Channel invasion in 1944 difficult. 
They added that Britain could not do 
anything about it since British produc- 
tion was already proceeding at the max- 
imum rate. The British request was met 
with some suspicion. 54 The Joint Chiefs 
were inclined to question whether the 
British were making full use of their own 
resources. Admiral King stated flatly that 
any substantial increase in the rate of 
production of landing craft would cause 
serious delays and conflicts with other 
programs. 55 The Navy recalled with alarm 
the dislocation in naval construction 
caused by the 1 942 landing craft program. 
After noting that the present schedules 
for delivery of craft during 1943 and early 
1944 would "in no way near approximate 
previous deliveries except in the case of 

53 George E. Mowry, Landing Craft and the WPB 
(Historical Reports on War Administration: WPB 
Special Study No. 11), rev. ed. (Washington, 1946), 
pp. 7, 19-21, 25. 

54 One of the principal American planners noted 
that lack of landing craft might be one reason for the 
difficulty of launching an invasion in 1944, but, on 
the other hand, "we have never had tangible indica- 
tion that the British intend to launch [a] cross- 
Channel operation." Penciled note on Gen Wede- 
meyer's copy (Copy 4) of CPS 63, Production of 
Landing Craft, 19 Mar 43, incl to JCS 248, 26 Mar 
43. P8cO Implementing Section files. 

65 JCS 71st Mtg, 30 Mar 43. 



LST's," a Navy spokesman strongly re- 
commended that no change be made in 
current production schedules. "It should 
be remembered that in order to get the 
present LST's on time we have to cut 
across every single combatant ship pro- 
gram and give them over-riding priority 
in every navy yard and in every major 
civilian ship-building company. We have 
not and will not for the next 6 months 
recover from all the derangements suf- 
fered from the last over-riding Amphibi- 
ous Boat Program. In my opinion any- 
thing approaching a repetition of the 
previous program would be disastrous 
from a standpoint of all other Naval con- 
struction " 86 

Allotment of Resources, May 1943 

From the point of view of the COSSAC 
planners in London, the failure to take 
timely steps to increase landing craft pro- 
duction looked at best like shortsighted- 
ness and at worst like a deliberate attempt 
to sabotage the cross-Channel invasion. 
Washington, however, had a larger, more 
difficult perspective. The Joint Chiefs 
were concerned not only with a European 
invasion but with establishing the best 
possible balance of forces to carry on the 
global war. In the spring of 1943 they 
were still operating under the Casablanca 
statement of strategy which required that 
defeat of the German submarine should 
be a first charge on the resources of the 
United Nations. The German submarine 
had not yet been defeated; on the contrary 

56 Memo, W. S. Farber for Admiral Home, Rates 
of Production for Landing Craft, App. A to Min, 
JCS 71st Mtg. Rear Adm. Farber was head of the 
Fleet Maintenance Division (December 1940-Oc- 
tober 1943) . Vice Adm. Home was Vice Chief of 
Naval Operations for Materiel. 



64 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



the United Nations in March had lost a 
near record tonnage of shipping. 57 Any 
decision to curtail the production of es- 
cort vessels would not therefore have 
seemed justified. Requests to increase 
landing craft production were at this time 
extremely vague. No one could say how 
many more LCT's or LST's would be re- 
quired. No one could state categorically 
that the current production schedules 
would not yield sufficient craft for pro- 
posed operations. It has already been 
pointed out that the planners' estimates 
for a cross-Channel invasion had varied 
from a five- to a ten-division lift. By May 
the only conclusion reached was General 
Morgan's warning that although require- 
ments of landing craft could not yet be 
forecast they would be "large enough . . . 
to present a very serious problem, which 
has no precedent." 58 

It was with this basic uncertainty as to 
their needs that the British planners ar- 
rived in Washington in May 1943 to 
settle, among other things, the allocation 
of resources for 1944 operations in the 
European theater. The availability of re- 
sources was a planning problem and 
scarcely a whisper of it reached the high 
council chambers where the President 
and Prime Minister, with the advice of 
the Combined Chiefs, sought to mark out 
world-wide strategy. Yet the whole dis- 
cussion was colored by the higher level 
debates on strategy and, in turn, decisions 
on landing craft made at planning level 

67 History of the Commander-in-Chief Atlantic 
Fleet (United States Naval Administration in World 
War II) , MS, p. 463. Navy Dept files; cf. Samuel E. 
Morison, The Battle of the Atlantic (History of 
United States Naval Operations in World War II: I) 
(Boston, 1947) , pp. 315, 326, 344, 403. 

68 Memo, Morgan for Br COS, Landing Craft Re- 
quirements for Cross-Channel Operations, 24 May 43, 
COSSAC (43) 5. 



were to become pivots of higher strategy. 
For the future of cross-Channel opera- 
tions in particular, the work of the plan- 
ners in Washington in May was vastly 
more significant than the pronounce- 
ments of the President and Prime Minis- 
ter. The repercussions of landing craft 
decisions were to be felt all during the 
following year until Churchill at last 
complained with some bitterness that 
"the destinies of two great empires . . . 
seemed to be tied up in some god-dammed 
things called LST's whose engines them- 
selves had to be tickled on by . . . LST 
engine experts of which there was a great 
shortage." 59 

At the Washington Conference the first 
British statement of requirements for a 
1944 cross-Channel invasion included 
8,500 landing ships and craft to provide a 
lift for ten divisions simultaneously 
loaded for the assault. American plan- 
ners, comparing this figure with esti- 
mated production rates, came up with 
the conclusion that the demand was im- 
possible of fulfillment. It was, in fact, so 
far out of line with reality that the U. S. 
Chiefs of Staff at once suspected the good 
faith of the British in proposing it. They 
wondered whether the impossible bill for 
shipping had not been presented to pro- 
vide the British with an excuse for not 
doing the operation. 60 They ignored the 
fact that the estimate of ten divisions for 
the assault had been arrived at by com- 
bined planners in London and had been 
specifically agreed to by ETOUSA. 61 In 

69 Quoted in Memo, ASW (J. J. McCloy) for 
Marshall, 26 Apr 44. OPD files, misc bk. 18. 
6° JCS Mtgs, 14-19 May 43. 

61 ETOUSA approval noted in Memo, Barker for 
Executive Planning Section (ETOUSA) , Require- 
ments for Landing Craft, 9 Mar 43. SHAEF SGS file 
560 I. 



OUTLINE OVERLORD (JANUARY-JULY 1943) 



65 



the context of British arguments at the 
Washington Conference for further op- 
erations in the Mediterranean and of 
their openly expressed doubts as to the 
feasibility of a cross-Channel invasion un- 
less German strength in the west could 
be drastically reduced, the suspicion ap- 
peared logical. Admiral King, in par- 
ticular, was convinced that the British 
had no intention of invading the Conti- 
nent in the spring of 1944. He thought 
they would wreck the prospects of round- 
up "on the matter of the number of 
landing craft." General Marshall, taking 
a more temperate and optimistic view, 
agreed that roundup in its conception as 
a ten-division assault must be recognized 
as "a logistic impossibility" in the spring 
of 1944. 62 

It was clear, then, that to argue against 
the British concept of continuing attacks 
in the Mediterranean which the Joint 
Chiefs consistently maintained were in- 
capable of decisive results it was neces- 
sary to reduce the size of the contem- 
plated cross-Channel invasion to some- 
thing within the range of logistic pos- 
sibility. The Joint Chiefs discussed such 
an operation as a "glorified sledgeham- 
mer" and conceived it as employing some 
twenty divisions, which meant scaling 
down the number of actual assault divi- 
sions to a logistically reasonable force. 
Thus, their doubts as to the seriousness 
of British commitment to a Continental 
invasion in 1944, whether justified or 
not, helped shape their position that 
'planning should be for an operation 
possible with the resources which would 
certainly be on hand in the spring of 
1944. In other words the search for a 
tenable ground to argue against Medi- 

62 JCS 85th Mtg, 19 May 43. 



terranean strategy predisposed the U. S. 
Chiefs of Staff to an acceptance of 1943 
production rates as a limiting factor on 
the scale of Continental operations in 
1944. It became politic to avoid discuss- 
ing the possibility of increasing landing 
craft production. The issue had to be 
rescued from the quicksands of hypo- 
thesis. 

It was. British planners arguing for a 
ten-division assault felt themselves on un- 
sure ground. Rear Adm. C. M. Cooke of 
the U. S. Joint Planning Staff commented 
that each of the British planning papers 
seemed to contain a different assessment 
of landing craft requirements, and that 
their original figure of 8,500 had been 
"talked down" to 4,000. 63 As the British 
Chiefs of Staff had previously admitted, 
there were no grounds for defending the 
arbitrary estimate of ten divisions in the 
assault except a feeling that overwhelm- 
ing strength would be needed. Since this 
was obviously relative and no one could 
foretell what it would be relative to, the 
argument could not carry much weight. 

The Joint Chiefs of Staff instructed 
their planners to re-examine American 
and British capabilities for supplying 
troops and landing craft. The planners 
reported that, assuming two operations 
in the Mediterranean after the conquest 
of Sicily, landing craft could be made 
available in the United Kingdom by the 
spring of 1944 sufficient to lift five divi- 
sions simultaneously, three for the assault 
and two for the immediate follow-up. 
They believed a "second follow-up force 
of two divisions can be floated by landing 
craft used in the assault on their first 
turnaround augmented as practicable by 
miscellaneous craft which can be pro- 
63 Ibid. 



66 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



vided in the United Kingdom." 64 De- 
tailed figures actually revealed a deficit 
of lift for 500 vehicles, but this was con- 
sidered small enough to be acceptable 
for planning purposes. Troops available 
in the United Kingdom at the target 
date were estimated to total from twenty- 
six to thirty divisions depending on 
whether cannibalization of four British 
divisions proved necessary in order to 
find line of communications troops. 

These planning figures were accepted 
without significant debate and it was 
agreed that General Morgan would be 
ordered to confine his plan to the de- 
tailed allotment of 4,504 landing ships 
and craft which planners figured would 
be available. 65 In addition to the five 
divisions seaborne in the assault, Morgan 
would plan to use two airborne divisions 
for which he was allotted an admittedly 
inadequate number of transport air- 
craft. 66 

The whole calculation was necessarily 
based on a number of highly debatable 
assumptions, which had not been agreed 
on by the various planning groups and 
which had not been tested by a large- 
scale amphibious operation against a de- 
fended coast. By May the COSSAC naval 
staff had adopted a "Standard Method for 
Forecasting Landing Craft Require- 
ments." But this was not used at the 
Washington Conference. The Washing- 

64 CPS 71, Report by Sub-Committee on Availabil- 
ity of Landing Craft for roundhammer, 20 May 43. 
roundhammer was the code name used at the Wash- 
ington Conference for the cross-Channel attack. Con- 
ceived as an operation midway in size between the old 
sledgehammer and roundup, it borrowed part of each 
code name. 

85 Of these, 3,257 would be supplied by the British; 
1,247 by the United States. 

68 This was to represent no real problem, however. 
See below. Ch. V. 



ton estimates were based on quite differ- 
ent assumptions. For instance, while 
COSSAC allotted 3,000 vehicles to each 
assault division to be carried in major 
landing ships or craft, Washington plan- 
ners figured 4,380. 67 

The Washington estimates of the aver- 
age capacity of the various types of craft 
also differed significantly from COSSAC's 
reckoning. 68 These discrepancies are un- 
derstandable when the nature of the 
problem of estimating ship capacities is 
considered. In the first place a "vehicle" 
is a flexible term covering everything 
from a 14 -ton trailer to a tank retriever. 
In actual loading for the operation, for 
instance, VII Corps LCT's carried from 
three to twenty-eight vehicles, depending 
on the type. In striking an average for 
an assault force, much depended on the 
exact composition of the force. Further- 
more the average was not likely to obtain 
when applied to smaller units of the 
assault which, for tactical reasons, might 
have to be loaded without regard to econ- 
omy of space. Thus, the higher the aver- 
age capacity for planning purposes, the 
more inflexible the tactical employment 
of the force. Until the tactical plan was 
known, planning estimates would natur- 
ally vary according to the planner's 
knowledge of, or feeling about, the diffi- 
culty of the actual operation contem- 
plated. Throughout the planning period 
it was generally true that the Americans 
tended to be more optimistic than the 

67 Washington estimated only 2,760 vehicles for 
the follow-up divisions, thus striking an average for 
the five divisions of 3,730. What are called in the 
text "Washington estimates" are all those of the 
subcommittee referred to in note 64. 

68 Washington figures: LCT(3) and (4)— 15 
vehicles; LCT(5) and (6)— 12 vehicles; LST — 50 
vehicles. COSSAC figures: LCT (all types)— 10 ve- 
hicles; LST — 60 vehicles. 



OUTLINE OVERLORD (JANUARY-JULY 1943) 



67 



British about the difficulties of the assault 
and hence more willing to push planning 
figures upward toward the theoretical 
maximum. The most optimistic Ameri- 
cans were those on this side of the water. 

One of the greatest weaknesses of the 
Washington calculations which fixed 
COSSAC's resources was that they did 
not take into account possible loss or 
damage to craft in the assault or the time 
required for ships to turn around and 
come back for the build-up forces. As 
one of the chief COSSAC planners 
pointed out, the provision of sufficient 
landing craft for the assault and first 
twenty-four hours did not necessarily in- 
sure an adequate build-up." The build- 
up would depend in large part on what 
ships came back from the assault. How 
long would it take them to return, how 
many would be lost, how many damaged, 
how fast could the damaged craft be re- 
paired? It would have been impossible 
for the Washington planners to have ar- 
rived at any firm estimates along these 
lines because the choice of an assault 
area had not then been settled and con- 
sequently the nature of enemy opposition 
could not even be guessed at nor the 
length of the sea voyage determined. 70 

69 Memo, Brig Gen K. McLean (Br Army Ops 
Branch) , Landing Craft Requirements (Comment 
on Memo by Naval Chief of Staff, 15 May) , 26 May 
43. SHAEF SGS file 560 I. 

70 It is interesting, in this connection, that both 
Washington and COSSAC planners in May were 
contemplating shore-to-shore sailings of the small 
assault craft (LCA's and LCVP's) . This could have 
been feasible only if the force sailed from Dover to 
assault the Pas-de-Calais coast. The longer voyage 
to the Caen area could not have been made in rough 
Channel weather by LCA-type boats. Commodore 
Hughes Hallett planned to sail a portion of the 
LCA's from Dover and carry the rest on LSI (S) 's. 
Washington planners did not contemplate carrying 
any of the smaller craft aboard larger ships. See 



Another important factor largely omit- 
ted from reckoning at Washington was 
the need for close-support craft. The 
principal types mounted guns, rockets, 
or mortars on LCT hulls or similar bot- 
toms. They therefore had to be figured 
into the total production requirements 
for landing craft, even though they pro- 
vided no assault lift. The failure to allot 
them in anything like adequate numbers, 
in fact, forced COSSAC to convert some 
LCT's and thus increased the shortage 
of landing craft. 71 

The net effect of the Washington Con- 
ference decisions was narrowly to restrict 
not only the size of the cross-Channel 
assault but the degree of flexibility with 
which tactical dispositions could be 
planned. As planning progressed it 
would become increasingly apparent that 
the allocations agreed to by the Com- 
bined Chiefs of Staff in May 1943 were 
wholly inadequate for the job. But for 
the moment the figures were accepted 
without serious demur from any quarter. 

It has already been suggested that this 
ready agreement to mount the cross- 
Channel invasion on a shoestring sprang 
at least in part from the context of the 
Washington Conference. American con- 
cern with getting a firm decision on a 
definite operation with a definite target 
date led to a willingness to accept an 
operation scaled to resources evidently 
within the capacities of the Allies. The 
British were not likely to take serious 
issue. They attached little importance 
to long-range commitments and con- 



Memo, Hughes-Hallett for CCO, Cross-Channel 
Operations: 1944 Hypothesis (Requirements for 
LCI (S) ) , 22 May 43. SHAEF SGS file 560 I; cf. CPS 
71, App. B, 20 May 43. 
71 See below, Ch. III. 



68 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



sistently deprecated discussions of stra- 
tegic principles. They were always more 
interested in the operation which came 
next on the war agenda. 72 

For the British in May 1943, the 
next logical operation was a follow-up 
in the Mediterranean of the invasion of 
Sicily, which was scheduled for July. The 
main project for 1943, they said, was the 
elimination of Italy. "The collapse of 
Italy," said the Prime Minister, "would 
cause a chill of loneliness over the Ger- 
man people, and might be the beginning 
of their doom." 73 The British Chiefs of 
Staff contended that Mediterranean oper- 
ations were not only the most important 
immediate objective but that they were 
also essential in order to create condi- 
tions which would permit the mounting 
of roundup in the spring of 1944. 74 In 
General Brooke's opinion, without fur- 
ther Mediterranean operations, roundup 
would not be possible before 1945 or 
1 946. In a detailed estimate of the prob- 
able situation in northwest Europe in 
1944, the British planners concluded that 
the Allies could not hope to compete 
successfully with enemy build-up either 
on the ground or in the air unless the 
enemy's ability to reinforce his coastal 
defenses was weakened by forced with- 
drawals to take over the defense of Italy 
and Italian commitments in the Balkans. 
They pointed out that there were definite 
limitations to \he weight which the 

72 See, for instance, CCS, 288/2, 29 Jul 43, in which 
the British Chiefs of Staff, proposing an agenda for 
the Quebec Conference, wanted to "dispense with 
lengthy discussions on over-all strategic concepts or 
global strategy" and talk about specific operations. 

"1st White House Mtg, 12 May 43. OPD files, 
Min of trident Conf. 

74 CCS 87th Mtg, 18 May 43; CCS 234, Defeat of 
the Axis Powers in Europe (Elimination of Italy 
First) , 17 May 43. 



Allies could throw against the Continent 
—limitations chiefly due to landing craft 
but also inherent in the nature of am- 
phibious operations. To ignore these 
would be to risk entering a build-up race 
in which the Allies could probably never 
hope to achieve the necessary margin of 
superiority. Furthermore, failure to 
maintain the momentum of attack in the 
Mediterranean would cast away an un- 
rivaled opportunity to inflict mortal in- 
jury on Germany and would give her a 
chance to prepare to parry the final blow. 
"The final blow," they admitted, "can 
only be struck across the Channel; it can- 
not be delivered from the Mediter- 
ranean." 75 But it was essential to do 
everything possible to exhaust and 
weaken Germany before the blow was 
struck. 

With the conclusion the U. S. Chiefs 
of Staff agreed. It was the method they 
challenged. They did not believe that 
such "minor" operations in the Mediter- 
ranean as were within the capabilities of 
the United Nations would draw German 
forces from Russia even if they resulted 
in the collapse of Italy. They believed 
that the main effort against Germany in 
1943 would have to be made by the 
Soviet Union and that the United States 
and Great Britain were incapable of 
effective intervention. On the other 
hand, the Soviets would probably still 
need help in 1944. The Western Allies 
could put themselves in a position to 
render really effective aid then provided 
that they did not dissipate their re- 
sources on side shows in 1943. 76 Tenta- 
tively the Americans suggested that a 

« ccs 234. 

76 CCS 235, Defeat of Axis Powers in Europe, 18 
May 43. 



OUTLINE OVERLORD JANUARY-JULY 1943) 



69 



limited bridgehead operation against the 
Continent might be attempted during 
1943. But they did not press the point 
against British objections that the bridge- 
head would lock up the Allied divisions 
employed, cause the Germans to concen- 
trate in France, and so make later inva- 
sion more difficult. The President ex- 
pressed the gist of the American point of 
view at the first plenary session. He dis- 
liked the idea of possibly playing into 
German hands by committing large 
United Nations armies in Italy where 
they were in danger of suffering attrition. 
On the other hand he agreed with the 
Prime Minister that American and 
British forces should not be idle between 
the conclusion of the Sicilian campaign 
and the spring of 1944. 77 

In the final decision of the conference 
the latter consideration prevailed. The 
debate was resolved more easily than 
similar debates at later conferences, be- 
cause it did not involve an immediate 
choice between alternative courses of 
action. The Americans opposed Medi- 
terranean operations not in themselves 
but only as they might delay attack on 
northwest Europe. The British opposed 
not the cross-Channel attack but only 
the exclusive devotion of resources to it 
which would rule out action in the Medi- 
terranean. The British feared an im- 
mediate opportunity would be thrown 
away through narrow concentration on 
the main goal. The Americans feared 
that by taking the immediate opportun- 
ity the chance to pursue the main goal 
might be lost or seriously delayed. 

The conference was able to straddle 
the disagreement. The Joint Chiefs of 
Staff secured a firm commitment on the 
77 1st White House Mtg, trident Conf. 



size and target date for the cross-Channel 
operation. The decisions of the confer- 
ence as they affected the plan which COS- 
SAC would soon christen overlord pro- 
vided that "forces and equipment" 
should be established in the United 
Kingdom "with the object of mounting 
an operation with target date 1 May 1944 
to secure a lodgment on the Continent 
from which further offensive operations 
can be carried out." 78 The Combined 
Chiefs agreed to allot five infantry divi- 
sions for the assault, two infantry divi- 
sions for the initial build-up, 79 two air- 
borne divisions, and an additional twenty 
divisions to be available in England for 
movement into the lodgment area. 

The decision on the target date was 
made without much debate. The Joint 
Chiefs of Staff first proposed 1 April as 
the earliest date when suitable weather 
could be expected and as the date that 
coincided with the conclusion of the 
planned bomber offensive designed to 
prepare the attack chiefly by knocking 
out German air power. 80 General Brooke 
proposed a postponement of one month 
to avoid the spring thaw in Russia and 
so permit the Soviet Union to launch a 



78 Draft Supplementary Directive to COSSAC, Am- 
phibious Operations from the UK, incl B to CCS 
250/1, 25 May 43. 

79 There is some confusion on the term "follow- 
up." The Washington agreement reads five divi- 
sions in the assault and two in the follow-up. 
By later usage, however, this is a misnomer. The 
follow-up as generally used in the planning period 
and as consistently used in this book means divisions 
not taking part in the initial assault but preloaded 
in craft and shipping to come in immediately be- 
hind the assault units. Build-up units are those 
landed on subsequent trips by cr»ft already employed 
in the assault and follow-up waves — or more gener- 
ally any units which are not actually on board ship 
at the time the assault is mounted. 

80 See below, Ch. VI. 



70 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



co-ordinated offensive. This was agreed. 
Admiral King even indicated that a still 
later date might be acceptable and he 
commented that target dates were seldom 
met anyway. The Joint Chiefs were 
mainly concerned that some date be fixed 
to pin down the commitment to the 
operation and insure a certain urgency in 
the planning and preparation. 

The Joint Chiefs yielded to British 
arguments so far as to sanction further 
operations in the Mediterranean but 
only with provisos that strictly limited 
Mediterranean commitments. Each spe- 
cific operation in the Mediterranean to 
follow husky (the invasion of Sicily) 
was to be subject to approval by the Com- 
bined Chiefs of Staff. General Eisen- 
hower, Commander in Chief in North 
Africa, could use for his operations only 
the forces already allotted to his theater. 
It was further agreed that four U. S. and 
three British combat-experienced divi- 
sions in the Mediterranean would be 
held in readiness from 1 November on- 
ward for transfer to England to take part 
in the cross-Channel operation. 81 This 
was a particularly important decision in 
hardening the resolution to turn in 1944 
from the Mediterranean to northwest 
Europe. 

The COSSAC Plans 

The decisions of the Washington Con- 
ference were made known to COSSAC 
late in May. In the meantime the 
COSSAC staff had begun developing 
plans for the three operations for which 
it was responsible. These included, in 



81 CCS 242/6, Final Report to the President and 
Prime Minister, 25 May 43. 



addition to the cross-Channel attack 
itself, actions to make the Germans be- 
lieve the Allies would invade Europe dur- 
ing 1943, and operations to take place in 
case of German collapse. 

Cockade 

The main objective of the diversionary 
scheme for 1943, planned under the code 
name cockade, was to pin German forces 
in the west by encouraging German ex- 
pectations of an Allied invasion during 
that year. In addition, by including an 
actual amphibious feint, General Mor- 
gan hoped to provoke an air battle that 
would contribute to the destruction of 
the German Air Force. 

This over-all plan included three sep- 
arate operations, each threatening a dif- 
ferent portion of the enemy-held coast. 
The U. S. Army's allotted portion of the 
plan was Operation wadham, embodying 
a threat to the Brest Peninsula and de- 
signed to persuade the Germans into 
overestimating the strength of U. S. 
forces in the United Kingdom. 82 The 
threat was carried out by forces under V 
Corps. At the same time British forces 
in Scotland simulated preparations for 
attack against Norway (Operation tin- 
dall). But the heart of cockade was 
Operation starkey 83 directed against the 
Pas-de-Calais and designed to include, as 
an amphibious feint, a landing exercise, 
harlequin. Plagued, as usual, by the 
shortage of landing craft, COSSAC was 
obliged in the end to halt harlequin 
short of embarkation, but the rest of the 
starkey plan was carried through, cul- 

82 For additional details on wadham see V Corps 
History (Paris, 1945) , p. 20. 

83 COSSAC (43) 4 (Final) , Operation 'Starkey 
26 Jun 43. 



OUTLINE OVERLORD (JANUARY-JULY 1943) 



71 



minating in minesweeping operations in 
the Channel at the beginning of Septem- 
ber. 

It is peculiarly difficult to assess the 
effects of operations like cockade. 
Neither in the routine Allied intelligence 
reports nor in surviving German records 
is there evidence of specific and overt 
German reaction. No new troop disposi- 
tions were ordered in expectation of im- 
mediate invasion of France. On the other 
hand, the German defenders in the west 
were in some stage of alert during most 
of 1943 and it is plausible to suppose 
that knowledge of Allied activities con- 
tributed at least in some measure to their 
tenseness. General Morgan, though un- 
certain as to enemy reaction, believed 
that certain naval activity in the Chan- 
nel and the flooding of the lowlands be- 
hind Caen and the Cotentin beaches 
might be "reasonably ascribed" to the 
feints. 84 Whatever the full effect may 
have been on the enemy, cockade had 
one clear value for the Allies in provid- 
ing experience for planning the success- 
ful diversionary activities of 1944. 

Outline Overlord 

The duties of COSSAC in supervising 
the execution of cockade continued, as 
noted, through the summer of 1943, but 
the staff's chief planning energies were 
turned at the beginning of June to the 
preparation of overlord. Six weeks 
later they had written the outline plan. 
Before examining the details of that 
plan, it is important to observe its gen- 
eral character. 

Outline overlord, in the strict sense, 



84 COS (43), 207th Mtg, 4 Sep 43; cf. Morgan, 
Overture to Overlord, pp. 100-103. 



was not an operational plan at all. 88 It 
was not a blueprint for maneuver. No 
field order could have been issued on the 
basis of it, and no troop dispositions 
made. It was a plan for planning, not a 
plan for action. Its tone was discursive, 
not precise and peremptory. It reflected 
the fact that it was drawn by a staff in 
the absence of the commander, and it 
made a patent effort to refrain from tying 
the commander's hand, especially in 
examining the later phases of the opera- 
tion. It was designed to answer the ques- 
tion implicit in the May decisions of the 
Combined Chiefs of Staff. Given certain 
resources, was an operation against the 
Continent possible in the spring of 1944? 
COSSAC arrived at an answer in Outline 
overlord, first by narrowing down the 
problem through rejecting courses of 
action that seemed impossible with the 
given means, and then by outlining cer- 
tain conclusions as to the size and shape 
and limiting conditions of a feasible 
operation. Within that outline, details 
were only tentatively sketched in. 

Previous planning had already ob- 
served that geography placed rigid limits 
on the operation. Earlier planners con- 
cluded that only two geographically feas- 
ible assault areas existed— the Caen 
region and the Pas-de-Calais. Although 

85 COS (43) 416 (0) , Operation overlord, Report 
and Appreciation, 30 Jul 43, cited hereafter as Out- 
line overlord. Department of the Army files contain 
several copies of the plan. The one used is in SHAEF 
SGS file 381 la. 

The overlord Plan consists of a Digest, three main 
parts: (I, Selection of a Lodgement Area; II, Ap- 
preciation and Outline Plan for the Opening Phase 
up to the Capture of Cherbourg; III, The Develop- 
ment of Operations after the Capture of Cherbourg) , 
and twenty-four appendixes (with maps) which in- 
clude discussions of alternative courses of action and 
studies of special problems. Dig est of the plan is 
reprinted below as Appendix A. 



72 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



the most recent appreciation made at the 
end of 1942 had rejected the Pas-de- 
Calais, General Morgan revived the idea. 
The Pas-de-Calais had certain obvious 
attractions, inherent chiefly in its prox- 
imity to England. Morgan, though recog- 
nizing its disadvantages, was reluctant to 
dismiss it out of hand. He therefore 
ordered that the British Army opera- 
tions branch of COSSAC prepare an esti- 
mate and outline plan for an assault on 
the Pas-de-Calais while the American 
branch worked on an operation against 
Caen. 

This order was given early in June 
1943 and about two weeks later the 
British planners had delivered their 
answer. They agreed with the earlier 
planning conclusion. An attack on the 
Pas-de-Calais, they said, must be con- 
sidered strategically unsound. 86 The 
British appreciation, embodied later in 
an appendix to the overlord plan, rein- 
forced the reasoning of earlier planners. 
The COSSAC staff found only four 
beaches in the Pas-de-Calais suitable for 
assault. These could receive a theoretical 
maximum of two assault divisions on 
D Day provided no delay were imposed 
by landing obstacles or enemy resistance. 
Since there were no ports in the region 
and the beaches were unsheltered, 
blocked, and heavily defended, it seemed 
obvious that the Allies' rate of build-up 
could not hope to compete with the 
enemy's. The expansion of the beach- 
head, moreover, to include major ports 
for the subsequent maintenance of the 
invasion force would require long flank 
marches east to Antwerp or southwest to 
the Seine ports, both across the whole 
front of the German army. They 
86 COSSAC (43) 11th Mtg, 19 Jun 43. 



summed up: "Not only does the strength 
of the defences demand a weight of 
assault which the restricted capacity of 
the beaches cannot admit, but the re- 
strictions imposed by the beaches do not 
allow a rapid build-up. Further, even 
if assault were practicable, the geography 
of the area does not permit of the capture 
of sufficient ports to maintain the force, 
and the terrain does not allow of the 
defence and exploitation of the bridge- 
head by the occupation of successive 
natural obstacles." 87 

Before the end of the month planners 
had ruled out assaults at Le Havre and 
on the Cotentin Peninsula. 88 But with 
rejection of the Pas-de-Calais, the deci- 
sion had actually been made that the 
main attack would take place in the 
vicinity of Caen j (Map I) 1 ] Assault land- 
ings would be confined to three beaches 
(Lion-sur-Mer-Courseulles, Courseulles- 
Arromanches-les Bains, and Colleville- 
sur-Mer-Vierville-sur-Mer). 89 This, Gen- 
eral Morgan decided, was the maximum 
area that could be successfully attacked 
with the limited forces at his disposal. 
He rejected the earlier idea of a simul- 
taneous landing on the eastern beaches 
of the Cotentin, although he recognized 
its value, and told the British Chiefs of 
Staff that he would like such a landing 
if he could have craft for an extra assault 
division. 90 

* Maps numbered in Roman are placed in inverse 
order inside the back cover. 

87 Outline overlord, App. C. 

88 COSSAC (43) 1 3th Mtg, 2 Jul 43. 

88 These beaches in the event were the center of 
the overlord assault after the operation was ex- 
panded from three to five assaulting divisions. The 
first two beaches were British in both the COSSAC 
and the later plan. The last-named (Colleville- 
Vierville) was the beach later called omaha. 

80 JP (43) 260 (Final), Commentary on Opera- 
tion overlord, 3 Aug 43. SHAEF SGS file 381 la. 



OUTLINE OVERLORD (JANUARY-JULY 1943) 



73 



As it was, the plan was to land two 
British divisions over the two eastern 
beaches in the Caen sector, one U.S. 
division over the western beach, and two- 
thirds of one British airborne division in 
the vicinity of Caen. 91 In addition, vari- 
ous subsidiary assaults would be neces- 
sary by commandos and parachutists to 
neutralize key enemy costal batteries, 
secure crossings over the River Aure, and 
form a defensive flank on the Vire. De- 
tails of these missions were left for later 
planning. 

D Day was, of course, not selected, but 
some of the weather and tidal conditions 
governing its selection were discussed. 
Since the target date (Y Day) was 1 May, 
D Day would fall some time during the 
month. There were likely to be twenty- 
three days in May on which the prevail- 
ing wind force would permit the beach- 
ing of landing craft. Quiet spells of four 
days or more could be expected twice 
during the month. 92 But forecasting them 
was another matter. The odds were ten 
to three that a three-day spell of good 
weather could be predicted twenty-four 
hours in advance. The incidence of suit- 
able weather for the airborne operation 
was still under investigation when the 
plan was issued, and it was simply noted 
that this would probably impose still 
narrower limitations on the choice of 
D Day. 

The question of whether the assault 
should take place in daylight or darkness 
was not definitely decided though it was 
pointed out that the Navy required day- 
light in order to control the operations 

91 Presumably at the same time as the seaborne 
landings, although the plan does not make this clear. 

92 A quiet spell was defined as a period in which 
the maximum wind force was nine knots. 



of a large fleet and in order to direct 
effective fire support. This requirement, 
the planners added, was likely to be de- 
cisive, even though, from the Army's 
standpoint, an approach to the shore by 
night would be desirable to help pre- 
serve surprise up to the last moment. 

It was noted that the initial landing 
should take place about three hours be- 
fore high water in order that a good-sized 
force might be landed on the first tide. 
Calculations to tie in weather, tide, and 
hours of daylight would be made only in 
later planning, when the optimum con- 
ditions for H Hour were finally settled. 

The choice of the Caen area meant a 
decision to delay the capture of ports 
needed for the maintenance of a large 
invasion force. Cherbourg, even if cap- 
tured early, would not be adequate to 
support the twenty-nine divisions which 
were to be put into the lodgment area. 
Throughout the initial phases of the 
operation a large proportion of supplies 
would have to be landed across the in- 
vasion beaches. General Morgan ac- 
cepted the risk of prolonged beach main- 
tenance because he counted on the com- 
pletion of at least two artificial ports 
which were then being developed. 

The bold and revolutionary idea of 
prefabricating ports in England and tow- 
ing them across the Channel had been 
talked about in 1942, but experimenta- 
tion did not begin in earnest until the 
summer of 1943. The essential ingre- 
dients of the artificial ports (which, in 
the prevailing fashion of code names, 
were called mulberries) were the break- 
waters to supply sheltered water in which 
small craft could ferry supplies to the 
beaches, and a floating pier (connected 
by treadway to the beach) at which 



74 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



larger vessels could unload directly into 
trucks. The solution at last developed 
for the breakwater was to combine 
sunken ships with the so-called phoenixes 
—hollow, floating concrete caissons about 
six stories high. The phoenixes were to 
be towed across the Channel and then 
sunk, by opening sea cocks, and anchored 
in position. The pier was developed as 
a floating platform devised so that with 
the rise and fall of the tide it could slide 
up and down on four posts which rested 
securely on the bottom of the sea. 93 

When General Morgan made his plan, 
depending on these devices, the mulber- 
ries were still on the drawing boards. 
In fact, engineers were still experiment- 
ing with various breakwater devices and 
the vast concrete phoenixes had not even 
been ordered. This circumstance again 
underlined the tentativeness of COS- 
SAC's approach. It was still necessary to 
assume resources that were not at hand 
and conditions that could hardly be fore- 
seen. 

For this reason, such things as the de- 
tailed composition of the assault forces 
were left for later planning. It was noted 
only that an unusually high proportion 
of armor and antiaircraft would probably 
be required in the first waves. COSSAC's 
view was that the Allies could count on 
surprise to get them safely ashore and 
through the first crust of the enemy's 
defenses. The critical phase of the opera- 
tion would be the first battles with the 
enemy's reserves. Because enemy coun- 
terattacks could be expected from D Day 
on, the Allies needed to have the maxi- 



03 [Clifford Jones] neptune: Training, Mounting, 
the Artificial Ports (The Administrative and Logis- 
tical History of the ETO: Part VI), MS, II, 112 ff. 
Hist Div files. 



mum of armor at their disposal as early 
as possible. "The normal German sys- 
tem," COSSAC observed, "is to concen- 
trate reserves well forward behind threat- 
ened sectors, in order to get the maxi- 
mum forces into action on D Day. . . . 
The crux of the operation will be our 
ability to land forces quickly enough, 
first, to hold the initial German counter- 
attacks, and then to defeat and drive off 
the large German reserves which will be 
brought in against our bridgehead." 94 

The basic problem was to establish 
and maintain a reasonable margin of 
superiority over the enemy. In this, Gen- 
eral Morgan was handicapped from the 
outset by limitation of resources. The 
Combined Chiefs of Staff had instructed 
him to use three divisions in the assault 
and two in the immediate follow-up and 
had allocated a specific number of land- 
ing craft and ships for the simultaneous 
loading of these five divisions. When the 
COSSAC staff tried to match men and 
vehicles with allocated shipping and 
form five naval task forces each to carry 
one division, they found that a large per- 
centage of the two follow-up divisions 
could not be tactically loaded and that 
they had more than 1,200 minor landing 
craft left over which were not seaworthy 
enough when loaded to make the long 
cross-Channel trip to Caen under their 
own power. 95 

The fact that overheads such as anti- 
aircraft and special engineer units would 
have to be landed on D Day and D plus 1 , 
and that a high proportion of tanks 



94 COSSAC (43) 29, Strategical Background, Cross- 
Channel Operation, 1944, 25 Jun 43. 

95 The leftover craft included 195 LCM (1) 's, 376 
LCM (3) 's, and 660 LCVP's. Outline overlord, App. 
Z. 



OUTLINE OVERLORD (JANUARY-JULY 1943) 



75 



would have to be carried in the assault, 
put an additional strain on shipping re- 
sources. The net effect was to compel 
reduction of the immediate reinforce- 
ments for the assault and delay their 
landing. On D Day only four follow-up 
reinforced regiments would be landed 
instead of two divisions as specified in 
the Combined Chiefs of Staff directive. 96 

On D plus 1 only one and a third divi- 
sions could be landed instead of the two 
estimated by Washington planners. Fur- 
thermore, COSSAC warned that 75 per- 
cent of the vehicles in the D-plus-1 build- 
up divisions would have to be loaded in 
ordinary shipping. Not only were there 
risks and difficulties in using large ships 
so early in the operation, but the units 
carried in them could not be unloaded in 
tactical order. It would take twenty-four 
hours after they got ashore before they 
could be organized and equipped for ac- 
tion. "It should be clearly noted," the 
plan warned, "that landing units in this 
manner means that the forces ashore on 
D Day are not reinforced until D plus 2 
with formations operationally available, 
except to the extent of about a brigade 
group [regimental combat team]." 97 

COSSAC was directed to employ two 
airborne divisions in the assault, but the 
allotment of 632 transport aircraft was far 
short of what was needed. This was not 
lift enough even for the two missions 
deemed essential: the capture and neutral- 
ization of the coastal batteries at Grand- 
camp-les Bains and Ouistreham-Riva- 

86 Although the plan stated that the limiting 
factor was the capacity of defended beach exits to 
pass vehicles inland, General Morgan later com- 
plained that the weakness of the planned follow-up 
was due to shortage of suitable landing craft. COSSAC 
(43) 57 (Final) , 30 Sep 43. SHAEF SGS file 560 I. 

97 Outline overlord. Part II, par. 85. 



Bella and the capture of Caen. The cap- 
ture of Caen alone was estimated to re- 
quire a full airborne division. COSSAC's 
decision was nevertheless to employ 
airborne troops on both missions, with 
the main air landings in the vicinity of 
Caen. The planners felt that Caen, an im- 
portant bottleneck in communications 
from the hinterland to the beaches, had to 
be seized "to avoid defeat in the early 
stages." 98 

General Morgan was always con- 
scious that the Allies, with such lim- 
ited resources in the early stages, could 
hope at best for only a slender margin of 
superiority. It was thus essential to do 
everything possible to reduce the enemy's 
capacity to resist. Steps were to be taken 
immediately (as of July 1943) to soften 
German resistance by all available means: 
direct sea and air action, psychological, 
political, and economic pressures, and 
sabotage and deception. This softening 
was to constitute the preliminary phase 
of the operation and was to be systema- 
tized to produce conditions considered es- 
sential to the success of overlord. During 
this phase the main effort of the Allied 
forces would be to reduce German fighter 
strength in western Europe, by bombing 
fighter production plants and airfields 
and by bringing the German fighter force 
to battle under conditions favorable to 
the Allies. At the same time, "but with- 
out detriment to the main aim," the 
Allied air offensive would continue the 
progressive destruction and dislocation 
of the German military and economic 
system and the undermining of the 
morale of the German people. It was ex- 
pected that in these ways the Allies could 



98 Ibid., Part II, par. 96. 



76 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



insure themselves of absolute air su- 
premacy by D Day. That was set as a con- 
dition for the operation "since only 
through air power can we offset the many 
and great disabilities inherent in the 
situation confronting the attacking sur- 
face forces." 99 

In the preparatory phase, beginning an 
undetermined time before D Day, the air 
offensive would be intensified and begin 
to hit hard at the enemy's airfields and 
those portions of his transportation sys- 
tem within fighter range of the Caen area. 
Immediately before the assault, air attack 
would focus on rail and road nets directly 
feeding into the battle area. Not until the 
assault phase itself— a matter of hours be- 
fore the landings— would aircraft attack 
the enemy's beach defenses. 

Important as it was thought to be to 
make the fullest utilization of Allied air 
power, it was considered still more impor- 
tant to conceal as long as possible the 
actual assault area. COSSAC planners be- 
lieved that it would be possible to pre- 
serve a high degree of tactical surprise, 
for, the staff pointed out, "It was evident 
from the weakness of the local defenses 
that the Germans did not consider it likely 
that we could make an assault in force in 
the Caen sector." 100 All preparations 
therefore should studiously avoid calling 
attention to the assault area. 

Further to contribute to surprise as well 
as to reduce enemy strength in the in- 
vasion area, two major diversions were to 
be staged. One would be carried out from 
the United Kingdom: a feint aimed at 
the Pas-de-Calais coast to begin about D 
minus 14 and continue during the first 
two weeks of the invasion. It was to follow 

9 <> COSSAC (43) 29, cited n. 94. 

100 COSSAC (43) , 13th Mtg, 2 Jul 43. 



the general lines of the 1943 operation 
pointed at the same area and would in- 
clude an actual expedition using some of 
the small craft which were unsuitable for 
the main assault. A second diversion 
would be mounted from the Mediter- 
ranean against the south coast of France 
to give the impression of an imminent 
major landing there. This was to start 
with a threat before the Normandy 
landings, but preparations would be 
made for an actual landing if German 
forces were withdrawn from southern 
France to meet the overlord attack. Both 
of these diversions became tremendously 
important in later planning and in the 
invasion itself, but in the outline plan 
COSSAC did little more than suggest the 
idea. 101 

Everything possible should be done be- 
fore the invasion to reduce the enemy's 
capacity to resist on the ground and in the 
air. But this was a highly theoretical 
specification. How much capacity to re- 
sist could safely be left to the enemy? At 
what point could preparations be said to 
be complete and the necessary conditions 
for the invasion set up? The answer could 
not be securely pinned to reality, since it 
was patently impossible to estimate enemy 
capabilities so far in advance. The best 
answer was hypothetical. Rejecting the at- 
tempt to assess the actual enemy, General 
Morgan calculated the maximum enemy 
which in his opinion the Allies could take 
on. 

Static troops defending the coast line 
were not taken into consideration; it 



101 The diversion against southern France was later 
planned as an actual operation under the code name 
anvil; the feint against the Pas-de-Calais remained 
a threat, planned and carried out as Operation forti- 
tude. 



OUTLINE OVERLORD (JANUARY-JULY 1943) 



77 



was assumed that they would be de- 
feated by the landing itself. Having got 
ashore, the invasion forces would be able, 
it was thought, to withstand counterat- 
tack by two German divisions. A third 
German offensive division could be in the 
area on the assumption that it would have 
to be held in reserve for the defense of the 
Cotentin. By D plus 2 the bridgehead 
could probably hold against attack by two 
additional enemy divisions. By D plus 8 
the enemy should not have more than a 
total of nine offensive divisions in the area 
il the Allies were to have a reasonable 
chance of gaining their objectives. The 
Germans by that date would have had 
time to move all available divisions in 
France and the Low Countries into the 
bridgehead area, except those pinned 
down by diversionary threats to other 
areas. It was believed that threats could 
keep a maximum of three enemy reserve 
divisions away from the bridgehead. In 
other words, the total German offensive 
striking force in France and the Low 
Countries on the invasion date should not 
exceed twelve divisions if the invasion 
was to succeed. 

These calculations evoked considerable 
criticism. General Barker, Morgan's 
deputy, protested the inclusion of any 
conditional clauses in the plan because 
he felt that they would make the plan 
harder to sell in Washington. The U. S. 
Joint Chiefs of Staff, he knew, believed 
that the British were cool toward the idea 
of a Continental invasion, and he foresaw 
that specifications as to the maximum 
enemy forces that could be defeated in 
France would only reinforce their 
belief. 102 The Joint Chiefs, in fact, reacted 



Interv with Gen Barker, 4 Oct 46. Hist Div files. 



as General Barker predicted. Barker had 
to explain that the clause did not mean 
that the operation would have to be can- 
celed if more than twelve enemy divisions 
could be brought to oppose it. COSSAC 
meant only that a maximum of twelve di- 
visions could be defeated by the Allied 
ground forces; if there were any more, 
they would have to be reduced by air 
power or other means. 103 This interpre- 
tation was accepted, and the conditions 
stood. Later on, however, at the confer- 
ence with the Russians, they were again 
queried when Stalin simply asked: "And 
what if there are thirteen divisions?" 104 
It was not so much a question as a 
needle jab to elicit further assurance of 
the Allies' firm intention to mount the 
operation. As far as General Morgan was 
concerned, it was not his business to settle 
Allied intentions, but it was his job to de- 
termine whether overlord was feasible. 
Since his own resources were limited by 
directive and since no such limitation was 
imposed on the enemy, he could not very 
well return an unqualified verdict. As to 
the artificial rigidity of the conditions, the 
plan itself provided a qualification. "It 
will be realized that the conditions under 
which the operation might be successful 
do not depend solely on the numerical 
strength of the reserves available to the 
Germans. The scale of German resistance 
will depend on such things as the state of 
the French railways and the strength, 
quality, and morale of the enemy's front 
line units." 105 



103 JCS 442/1, Operation overlord, 6 Aug 43; cf. 
Marshall's statement to the same effect at CCS 108th 
Mtg, 15 Aug 43. 

104 1st Plenary Mtg at Tehran, 29 Nov 43. OPD 
files, U.S. Min of eureka Conf. 

105 Outline overlord, Part II, par. 118. 



78 



CROSS CHANNEL ATTACK 



The first objective of the main assault 
was to secure a bridgehead including 
Grandcamp, Bayeux, and Caen by the end 
of D Day. Initial follow-up forces consist- 
ing of two regiments in each sector (Brit- 
ish and American) would land on D Day 
and assist assault forces in consolidating 
this bridgehead. Subsequent expansion of 
the bridgehead would take the form of 
thrusts south and southwest from the 
Caen-Bayeux area to defeat the enemy 
west of the Orne River, outflank his forces 
between the Orne and the Dives Rivers, 
and finally secure sufficient depth to make 
the turning movement to attack up the 
Cotentin toward Cherbourg. These op- 
erations would cover the first eight days 
of the invasion; by that time twelve divi- 
sions would be ashore. During the next 
six days, expansion southwestward would 
continue while a force entered the Co- 
tentin with the mission of capturing Cher- 
bourg by D plus 14. An armored force at 
the same time would strike southeast to- 
ward Alencon to cover the opening of air- 
fields southeast of Caen. Eighteen divi- 
sions would be ashore on D plus 14 and 
the planners estimated that at that time 
"the German forces should have been de- 
cisively beaten." 106 

After the capture of Cherbourg and the 
defeat of German forces west of the Orne 
River, COSSAC planners believed the 
enemy would fall back with part of his 
forces on Brittany for the defense of the 
ports there and withdraw the rest east of 
the Seine for the defense of Paris. It would 

100 Ibid., Part III, par. 44; cf. Commentary on Op- 
eration overlord (cited note 90) , in which the plan- 
ners point out that the advance calculated up to D 
plus 14 was sixty miles as compared with the advance 
of the right flank of Eighth Army in Sicily of only 
thirty miles in three weeks against much less serious 
opposition. 



then be up to the Supreme Commander 
to decide whether the Allies' next move 
would be to capture the ports on the 
Seine or those in Brittany. Although his 
decision would depend on estimates of 
his own and enemy capabilities at the 
time, COSSAC presumed that unless the 
Germans were on the point of collapse 
the Allies would be compelled to go after 
the Brittany ports in order to build up a 
large striking army with which to force 
the line of the Seine. To cover the entry 
into Brittany it would be necessary to 
drive the retreating Germans eastward in 
order to secure the line of the Eure River 
from Dreux to Rouen and thence the line 
of the Seine to the sea. This task would be 
carried out by British and Canadian 
armies while the American army was at- 
tacking Brittany. In these moves, the plan- 
ners warned, five guiding considerations 
should be kept in mind: the vital neces- 
sity not to outrun heavily strained com- 
munications, the importance of early cap- 
ture of a group of enemy airfields in the 
Dreux-Evreux region and of ground 
for the development of airfields in the 
le Mans— Chateaudun area, the value of 
the Seine below Rouen as a complete ob- 
stacle, the importance of Dreux, Chartres, 
and Orleans as centers of communication, 
and the value of the Coteaux du Perche 
as a bastion west of Dreux and Chartres. 

In this latter phase, culminating on 
about D plus 50 in the occupation of the 
lodgment area proper bounded by the 
Loire and Seine Rivers, COSSAC put 
great stress on the development of air- 
fields. By D plus 24, for instance, it was 
anticipated that twenty-seven Continental 
airfields should be in operation, on which 
sixty-two squadrons could be based. The 
securing of the lodgment area, planners 



OUTLINE OVERLORD (JANUARY-JULY 1943) 



79 



figured, would be followed by a long 
period of reorganization and consolida- 
tion. The next phase, the primary ob- 
jective of which would be the capture of 
Paris and the Seine ports, was conceived 
as a major operation which the Germans 
would resist heavily. Its completion 
would be followed by another pause of 
some three months while the enemy was 
cleared out of the whole of France south 
of the Loire and Dijon and the surrender 
of the Channel Islands was forced. 

The maneuver thus envisaged an 
evenly spaced series of battles, evenly op- 
posed. The planners blueprinted an op- 
eration in which the invading armies 
struck hard for an initial foothold, built 
up and pushed forward on all fronts to 
gain maneuver room, paused, gathering 
strength for the next push, and so pro- 
ceeded by bounds, cracking the enemy 
lines with separate, massed, and carefully 
prepared attacks for each new objective. 
The plan did not foresee the battle of at- 
trition in Normandy nor the breakout 
that followed, nor the long-sustained 
armored drives in pursuit of a broken 
enemy. 

Crushing defeat of the enemy, sending 
him in headlong and disorganized retreat, 
was a fortune of war which could be 
hoped for but not planned. Besides, by 
the terms of his directive, General Mor- 
gan was to plan not the annihilation of 
the German armies but the establishment 
of a lodgment area from which further of- 
fensive operations could be carried out. 
His attention was thus naturally focused 
on seizing and consolidating ground, cap- 
turing ports and airfields, and building up 
an army which could hold its gains and 
prepare to strike for further conquest. 



Rankin 

Outline overlord was finished and sub- 
mitted to the British Chiefs of Staff for 
review before COSSAC got around to the 
third task: planning for occupation of the 
Continent in case of German collapse. 
rankin, as the collapse operation was 
named, proved an exceptionally difficult 
concept to grasp and translate into a plan 
of action. In the first place it was not at all 
clear what collapse meant, sledgeham- 
mer and roundup had both been made 
contingent on a kind of collapse and plan- 
ners then attempted to define the concept. 
They came up with a rather vague notion 
of marked "deterioration of German 
morale," which seems not to have con- 
templated any failure of the Nazi govern- 
ment or any withdrawal of forces from the 
west. Rather it denoted a general weaken- 
ing of the will to resist (as a result, of 
course, of a weakening of the means)— a 
nebulous idea at best. But nothing more 
specific was then needed, sledgehammer 
and roundup both were planned by the 
British as operations involving the maxi- 
mum available Allied forces as if to meet 
determined enemy opposition. Plans were 
then shelved pending some future in- 
telligence estimate which might indicate 
an enemy situation sufficiently weak to 
give the attacks a reasonable chance of 
success. 

overlord, in contrast, was designed 
from the beginning as an operation with a 
specific target date, to go in against full 
enemy opposition. Such conditions as 
were laid down concerning maximum 
enemy resistance were conditions to be 
brought about by the Allies during the 
period of preparation. They were tactical 



80 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



rather than strategic conditions— that is, 
they affected only the limitation of the 
number of German troops that could be 
committed against the lodgment area; 
they did not include any general under- 
mining of Germany's military or political 
potential. The possibility of such general 
deterioration, however, remained and, 
since overlord was being prepared en- 
tirely without regard for it, it became nec- 
essary to make separate plans to take ad- 
vantage of collapse when and if it oc- 
curred. 

General Morgan was instructed by the 
Combined Chiefs that his organization 
should provide for "the need to re-enter 
the Continent with all available forces at 
the shortest possible notice in the event 
of a sudden and unexpected collapse of 
German resistance. The aim would be to 
seize critical political and military centers 
in Germany in the shortest possible 
time." 107 Soon after the COSSAC staff 
was established General Morgan asked 
the British Chiefs of Staff for a clarifica- 
tion of this directive, because, he said, his 
main object was given him as "the defeat 
of the German fighting forces in North- 
west Europe," whereas the directive to 
prepare for German collapse presupposed 
that the enemy had been defeated. He 
wanted specifically a restatement of his 
major object, a closer definition of the 
phrase "German disintegration," and 
more detail on the "critical political and 
military objectives." 108 

The reply of the British Chiefs of Staff 
was not delivered until 21 June. In the 
meantime General Morgan changed his 
mind about the need for definition. In a 
directive to his staff on 22 May, he said: 



"Little is to be gained by seeking to define 
the phrase 'German disintegration'. Quot 
homines tot sententiae." Instead he sug- 
gested a flexible plan capable of variation 
between the extremes of an invasion of 
the Continent to break through a screen 
of resistance, and a landing against no op- 
position at all. The first plan prepared 
should suppose no resistance, since the 
state of Allied resources would not im- 
mediately permit undertaking an op- 
posed landing. He recognized the diffi- 
culty of getting hold of a planning 
hypothesis. Since the time of the return 
could not be predicted, no precise esti- 
mate was possible of conditions on either 
side of the Channel. But, he pointed out, 
"Nebulous though the setting may be, 
there can be nothing nebulous in the 
event, which must be characterized by 
the utmost speed and precision of move- 
ment." The problem was basically similar 
to mobilization in peacetime. The solu- 
tion consisted, first, in providing ma- 
chinery to anticipate the event as far 
ahead as possible and, second, in phasing 
preparations so that they will "gain or lose 
momentum as the critical moment is 
judged to be approaching or receding." 109 
The solution at last selected was to 
break up the concept of enemy collapse 
into three definite degrees of collapse and 
provide three corresponding courses of 
action for the Allies. The three conditions 
were case A, which supposed a substantial 
weakening of organized resistance in 
France and the Low Countries, case B, 
which assumed German withdrawal from 
the occupied countries, and case C, un- 
conditional surrender and cessation of 



107 CCS 169/8/D, 23 Apr 43. 

108 COSSAC (43) 2, 29 Apr 43. 



109 COSSAC (43) 9, Plan for Return to the Con- 
tinent in Face of German Disintegration, 22 May 43. 



OUTLINE OVERLORD (JANUARY-JULY 1943) 



81 



organized resistance in northwest Eu- 
rope. 110 

If the deterioration of German military 
power in the west was not accompanied by 
surrender or withdrawal, Allied action 
would depend on the relative strength of 
German and Anglo-American forces at 
any given date. Before January 1944, it 
was thought that no assault against or- 
ganized resistance, however weakened, 
would be possible. In January and Feb- 
ruary a substantial weakening of the Ger- 
man forces might make possible a limited 
bridgehead operation. Since this date 
would find preparations for overlord far 
advanced, the only feasible operation 
would be one that made use of these prep- 
arations. The rankin plan thus indicated 
a modification of overlord to secure the 
Cotentin Peninsula if it became desirable 
to set the date forward to January or Feb- 
ruary, After 1 March a drastic reduction 
in German strength would permit a modi- 
fied overlord assault with substantially 
overlord's objectives. 

Case A thus involved no special plan- 
ning difficulty. The problem of following 
up a German withdrawal from France 
was more complicated. If such withdrawal 
was made, it would be done presumably 
with the idea of strengthening the Ger- 
man position. It could therefore be ex- 
pected that the maximum obstacles would 
be put in the way of Allied occupation. If 
withdrawal was begun in the winter, 
Allied landing would have to wait for the 
evacuation of a major port, since beach 
maintenance in winter weather was im- 
possible on the Channel coasts. The Ger- 
mans seeking to establish a defensive posi- 
tion at the West Wall (the Siegfried Line) 



—the only position that would permit the 
necessary economy of troops— would start 
pulling out from the south and southwest. 
The first port to be vacated would be 
Bordeaux. But this was too far from where 
the Allies could be deployed against the 
Germans to be useful as a port of entry. 
The landing of substantial military forces 
could be begun only when Cherbourg was 
freed. The problem was to get as far east 
as possible in order to get as near as pos- 
sible to the final German defense line and 
insure fighter protection from United 
Kingdom bases. At the same time landings 
could not be made so far east that they 
would be under attack by German mobile 
forces operating in advance of their main 
line of defense. Le Havre and Rouen were 
ruled out as initial ports of entry because 
the Germans were expected to make a 
preliminary stand at the Seine to protect 
and organize the retreat. Landing at Cher- 
bourg, forces would be built up in the 
Cotentin. But this was likely to be a slow 
process in view of anticipated demolition 
of the port. "There can ... be no thought 
of forcing the SEINE at an early stage, nor 
indeed can any major effort be contem- 
plated at any time to speed the enemy's 
withdrawal other than by air action." It 
was pointed out further that a grave dis- 
advantage of landing as far west as Cher- 
bourg was "the immense bridging liabili- 
ties which the enemy's legacy of large 
scale demolitions" was likely to cause. 
The store of Allied bridging equipment 
in the United Kingdom was not likely to 
prove adequate for such an undertaking 
before 1 January 1944. 111 

Advance beyond the initial bridgehead 
would depend on the rate of enemy with- 



110 COSSAC (43) 40 (Final) , Plan rankin, 13 Aug 
43. 



i" [bid. 



82 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



drawal. It could be retarded by delay in 
the build-up but could not be accelerated. 
When the enemy reached his final de- 
fensive position, "There must of neces- 
sity be a considerable pause while we 
build up sufficient forces for an advance 
Eastwards." 112 

The plan throughout was conservative 
in estimating the time needed to build up 
strength before joining the final battle. 
The conclusion was that German collapse 
as envisaged under cases A and B might 
permit the Allies to return to the Conti- 
nent before May 1944 but that such col- 
lapse would not materially advance the 
time for decisive action. In short, the 
rankin A and B plans offered little mili- 
tary advantages and the grounds for con- 
sidering them were chiefly that politically 
it might be necessary to press into the oc- 
cupied countries as soon as the Nazi grip 
on them relaxed. 

As preparations for overlord pro- 

112 Ibid. 



ceeded, the only rankin operation seri- 
ously considered was that under case C— 
total collapse accompanied by uncondi- 
tional surrender. The plan here involved 
no purely military considerations, being 
a scheme for rapid occupation. 113 

Although no rankin plan was ever put 
into effect, detailed consideration has 
been given to the planning because it re- 
veals that the Allied timetable for the war 
in western Europe was actually much 
more dependent on Allied preparations 
than on the state of the enemy. 

The rankin project was kept before 
the planners and periodically re-exam- 
ined, but its importance as a plan steadily 
dwindled as the overlord target date ap- 
proached and the proliferation of over- 
lord plans and preparations focused at- 
tention more and more on the big inva- 
sion. 

113 The relation of rankin c to later occupation 
plans (eclipse) will be dealt with by F. C. Pogue in 
The Supreme Command, a volume now under prep- 
aration in this series. 



CHAPTER III 



Overlord in the Balance 

(August— December 1943) 



Strategy Reviewed: 
The Quebec Conference 

When the Combined Chiefs of Staff 
parted at Washington in May 1943, they 
left with the sense that many of their de- 
cisions had been necessarily tentative and 
would have to be re-examined in the light 
of what happened in the next few months 
in Russia and in the Mediterranean. 1 
Near the end of July the Joint Strategic 
Survey Committee reviewed the prin- 
cipal developments for the guidance of 
the Joint Chiefs and found especially 
noteworthy the "substantial improve- 
ment in the submarine situation and pros- 
pects, satisfactory progress of the bombing 
offensive, unforeseen degree of success at- 
tained with husky [the invasion of 
Sicily] , indications of the impending col- 
lapse of Italy, decision to carry the war to 
the mainland of Italy . . . and apparent 
loss of the initiative by the Germans on 
the Eastern Front." 2 This was actually a 
cautious statement of successes which in 
two and a half months had definitely 
tipped the balance of military power in 
favor of the Allies throughout the world. 

At the Casablanca Conference, it will 
be remembered, the Allies had decided 
that the first charge on their resources 
should be the defeat of the German sub- 

1 CCS 95th Mtg, 24 May 43. 

2 JCS 422/1, quadrant, 25 Jul 43. 



marine. By the summer of 1943 that de- 
feat had all but been accomplished. Sink- 
ings of Allied ships would continue, but 
on a diminishing scale, while the destruc- 
tion of enemy U-boats accelerated. The 
turning point in the war on U-boats came 
dramatically in the spring of 1943. 

The Allied counteroffensive began in 
a small way in the early months of 1943. 
Although sinkings continued heavy, 
reaching a peak in March of 141 ships 
lost, the Germans were also beginning to 
lose more heavily, and, though the Allies 
were then unaware of it, the German Ad- 
miralty was worried. 3 Early in February 
1943 Grossadmiral Karl Doenitz ex- 
pressed alarm at the fact that the Allies 
now seemed to have exact knowledge of 
the disposition and in some cases of the 
number of German U-boats in opera- 
tional areas. At the end of the month he 
reported to Hitler that nothing had been 
sunk that month because nothing had 
been sighted. 4 He attributed the failure to 
bad weather and lack of reconnaissance. 
But it was not bad weather that destroyed 



3 See Naval Int Div (Br) , History of U-Boat Policy, 
1939-1945, 26 Feb 43. Navy Dept files. This consists 
of translations of extracts from documents in the 
files of the U-Boat Division of the German Ad- 
miralty. 

i Ibid. Actually the Allies in February lost 83 ships 
totaling 420,238 tons. See Commander-in-Chief At- 
lantic Fleet (U.S. Naval Administration in World 
War II) , MS, p. 463. Navy Dept files. 



84 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



nineteen U-boats in February and fifteen 
in March. 

For the Germans much worse was to 
come. In March on the suggestion of the 
Canadian Chief of Naval Staff, American, 
British, and Canadian naval commands 
held a conference in Washington to re- 
organize the Atlantic convoy system. Up 
to that time Atlantic convoys had been 
operated on a combined basis with ships 
of all three nations participating. Fric- 
tion and inefficiency resulted. It was de- 
cided therefore to turn over naval respon- 
sibility for the North Atlantic entirely to 
the British and Canadians. The United 
States Atlantic Fleet would escort convoys 
between the eastern seaboard and North 
Africa, as well as certain special fuel 
convoys. The change, effective at the end 
of April, contributed to the conspicuous 
success of the Allied antisubmarine of- 
fensive beginning in May. A still greater 
contribution, however, was made by the 
long-range aircraft which the conference 
recommended be allocated to coastal 
areas for antisubmarine work. The Com- 
bined Chiefs of Staff assigned nearly all 
the aircraft requested (about half from 
British and half from American sources) 
and specified that all planes would be 
equipped with radar and operated by 
crews specially trained in antisubmarine 
warfare. Steps were being taken also to 
supplement land-based air patrols with 
carrier aircraft. During the winter four 
baby flattops were in process of conversion 
for Atlantic convoy use. The first was de- 
livered in March. In June, three were 
operating in the South Atlantic. 5 

With a better-organized convoy system, 
new aircraft, and new detection methods, 
the Allies struck hard at the enemy's 

5 Commander-in-Chief Atlantic Fleet, pp. 481ff. 



underwater fleet in May. That month 
German U-boat losses soared to 30 per- 
cent of all boats at sea. Admiral Doenitz 
told Hitler: "These losses are too high. 
We must conserve our strength, otherwise 
we will play into the hands of the enemy." 
But as to the cause of the disaster Doenitz 
could only speculate. He knew that Brit- 
ish aircraft were using a new microwave 
radar and suspected that the same device 
was employed on Allied surface vessels. 
He knew that, whatever the new device 
was, it apparently enabled planes and de- 
stroyers to hunt out German submarines 
in the dark and in the fog and destroy 
them. He knew also that the submarines 
had no radar detection set that could warn 
them of the impending attack. In fact, he 
said, "We don't even know on what wave 
length the enemy locates us. Neither do 
we know whether high frequency or other 
location devices are being employed. 
Everything possible is being done to find 
out what it is." Hitler added a dark intui- 
tive note. Perhaps, he suggested, the new 
device involved principles with which the 
Germans were not familiar. "The crisis 
must be overcome by all possible means." 6 
But it was not overcome. It deepened 
and spread. In June, German submarines 
chalked up only nineteen Allied sinkings; 
in August, only three; and in September 
almost all U-boats had been withdrawn 
from the Atlantic, with the result that the 
U.S. Navy could virtually abolish the 
convoy system in coastal waters. 7 

Berghof Conference, 31 May 43, Office of Naval 
Intelligence, Fuehrer Conferences, 194}. Fuehrer Con- 
ferences is a selection of translated documents from 
German naval archives. 

7 Independent sailings were authorized for all ships 
except those carrying aviation fuel and those slower 
than eleven knots. See Commander-in-Chief Atlantic 
Fleet, p. 581. 




GERMAN SUBMARINE UNDER AERIAL ATTACK 



86 



CROSS CHANNEL ATTACK 



The reckoning at the end of 1 943 was 
that three million gross tons of Allied 
and neutral shipping had been sunk as 
compared with more than eight million 
the year before. 8 But enemy success was 
much less than even these figures show, 
for during the year Allied shipyards had 
put fourteen million tons of new shipping 
on the seas as against only seven million 
in 1942. In other words the net loss in 

1942 of about a million tons became in 

1943 a net gain of almost eleven million. 
At the same time estimated sinkings of 
U-boats increased from 85 in 1942 to 237 
in 1943. 

The spring of 1943 marked a sudden 
intensification of the air war against Ger- 
many almost as dramatic as the antisub- 
marine campaign. After the reduction of 
U.S. Air Forces in the United Kingdom 
in the fall of 1942 to furnish air support 
for the North African campaign, Ameri- 
can air power in Great Britain remained 
virtually static until the spring. From De- 
cember 1942 through April 1943, the 
Eighth Air Force based in the United 
Kingdom had just six groups of heavy 
bombers operational each month. During 
May, the number of groups doubled; in 
June, thirteen groups were operational, 
in July, fifteen, and in August, sixteen 
and three-quarters. 9 

The build-up was reflected gradually 
in intensified operations. March and May 
each saw nine operations carried out, but 
in March they involved 956 sorties and 
the dropping of 1,662 tons of bombs. In 
May 1,640 sorties were flown and 2,851 



8 Commander-in-Chief Atlantic Fleet, p. 462. 

9 Figures are from Statistical Summary of Eighth 
Airforce Operations, European Theater, 14 Aug 
1942S May 1945, Hq Eighth Air Force, 10 Jun 45. 



tons of bombs dropped. 10 In short, the 
average mission in March involved about 
106 planes; in May it involved 180. This 
was still a long way from the June 1944 
peak when the average operation was 
undertaken by 1,000 heavy bombers. 
Nevertheless the sudden spurt forward in 
the spring of 1943 was a step decisively 
in the direction of bringing crushing air 
power to bear on the enemy's war ma- 
chine. 

A similar increase in effort by the Brit- 
ish Bomber Command at the same time 
was noted by the Chief of Air Staff, Sir 
Charles Portal. The bomb tonnage 
dropped on enemy territory during the 
second quarter of 1943, he reported, more 
than doubled the tonnage in the first 
quarter. Even after making allowances 
for weather, this achievement, together 
with the accelerated build-up of the 
Eighth Air Force, represented a notable 
net increase in the pressure of the com- 
bined air offensive. It was too early to see 
certain or decisive results, but the promise 
of things to come was clear. Air Marshal 
Portal remarked that already Germany 
was being forced into a defensive air 
strategy. 11 

What the Joint Strategic Survey Com- 
mittee referred to as an "unforeseen de- 
gree of success attained with husky" was 
the relatively quick victory in Sicily ac- 
companied by signs of complete Italian 
demoralization. The forces of Field Mar- 
shal Harold R. Alexander (General Pat- 
ton's U.S. Seventh Army and General 
Montgomery's British Eighth Army) in- 

10 Bad weather in April reduced operations so 
drastically that a comparison of April sorties and 
bomb tonnage with May figures would be mislead- 
ing. For a detailed account of operations see Craven 
and Cate, The Army Air Forces, II, Ch. 10. 

" CCS 109th Mtg, 16 Aug 43. 



OVERLORD IN THE BALANCE (AUGUST-DECEMBER 1943) 



87 



vaded Sicily on 10 July 1943; thirty-nine 
days later (on 17 August) organized re- 
sistance had ended. The overrunning of 
the island had the immediate effect of 
convincing the Italians that their cause 
was hopeless. On 25 July Mussolini 
was forced out. On 8 September the 
Italian government formed by Marshal 
Pietro Badoglio capitulated. The immi- 
nence of Italian collapse had been ap- 
parent to both the Allies and the Germans 
some weeks in advance, and both sides 
were hurriedly preparing for the next 
move. 

The Germans, believing that there 
might still be some fight left in the 
Italians although their leadership had al- 
together broken down, in May had made 
plans for moving Army Group B, under 
Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel, in- 
to Italy. The move was accomplished 
during July and August while a pretense 
of co-operation with the Badoglio govern- 
ment was maintained. 12 

The prospect of an early Italian col- 
lapse convinced the U.S. Chiefs of Staff 
that the time had come for bold action. At 
the Washington Conference in May and 
for some weeks subsequently the principal 
Mediterranean post-HUSKY operations en- 
visaged were the seizure of Sardinia and 
limited-objective attacks on the toe or 
heel of the mainland. Both the Combined 
Chiefs of Staff and General Eisenhower 
favored the mainland operations as more 
likely to produce decisive results, but 
feasibility depended on the progress of 



12 General der Kavallerie Siegfried Westphal, Der 
Feldzug in Italien, MS, Ch. IV. Hist Div files. The 
story of Italian collapse and surrender is treated in 
full by H. M. Smyth in The Sicilian Campaign and 
the Surrender of Italy, a volume now under prepara- 
tion in this series. 



husky. 13 Planning therefore proceeded 
concurrently for all contingencies, and 
decision was deferred. General Marshall 
thought the choice might be made toward 
the end of July. It was actually about the 
middle of the month that the Combined 
Chiefs proposed scrapping all their earlier 
conservative plans in favor of a direct as- 
sault on Naples with a view to full-scale 
exploitation up the peninsula. 14 

Before this decision was made, General 
Eisenhower had asked that he be given 
additional troops to follow up the victory 
of Sicily. Specifically he asked for the di- 
version to the Mediterranean of one 
convoy scheduled for the United King- 
dom. The Combined Chiefs of Staff ap- 
proved his request though it meant a net 
loss to the United Kingdom build-up for 
overlord of 66,000 troops. 15 

British planners then proposed that 
General Eisenhower's striking power be 
still further increased. 16 But as their pro- 
posal would have reduced the overlord 
build-up by another 50,000 troops and 
might have caused postponement of 
either overlord or operations in the 
Pacific, the U.S. Chiefs of Staff demurred. 
They pointed out that, no matter how 
important an action in the Mediterranean 
might be, it could not substitute for ac- 
tion required in the Pacific or northwest 
Europe. In advocating the assault on 
Naples, they said, they had intended a 
bold plan which involved risks, justified, 

13 Meetings at Algiers between Churchill, Marshall, 
Eisenhower, and others, 29 and 31 May 43. Min of 

TRIDENT Conf. 

« CCS 102d Mtg, 16 Jul 43. The debate during 
July on what to do in the Mediterranean may be fol- 
lowed in the CCS 268 series and in CCS 103d Mtg, 23 
Jul 43, and CCS Spec Mtg, 26 Jul 43. 

15 Rpt, Combined Planning Staff, 15 Jul 43, CCS 
268/2; Msg to Eisenhower, 21 Jul 43, CCS 268/5. 

18 CCS 268/2. 



88 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



in their opinion, by the Italian collapse. 
They criticized the British proposal as 
overinsuring the operation at the cost of 
prejudicing agreed strategy elsewhere. 
They could not approve the Naples as- 
sault so conceived. 17 On this point the 
Joint Chiefs of Staff stood fast and on 26 
July the British yielded. 18 The order 
went out to General Eisenhower to plan 
an attack on Naples with only those re- 
sources already allotted to his theater. 
These, of course, now included 66,000 
more men that had been earmarked for 
the Mediterranean by the Washington 
Conference. 

Pressure on Germany from the west and 
south by the spring of 1943 was at least 
sufficient to blunt Germany's offensive 
capabilities in these directions. But from 
Germany's standpoint much worse was 
happening in the east. In the two preced- 
ing summers the Germans had set their 
armies rolling across huge expanses of 
Russian territory, though the decisive 
victory on both occasions remained just 
beyond their grasp. In July 1943 they 
tried again. They massed armor south of 
the Russian salient at Kursk. The armor 
broke through only to be destroyed in 
great tank battles in the rear of the Rus- 
sian main lines. The Russians waited only 
a week for this situation to develop before 
they launched their first major summer 
offensive with three armies attacking 
about fifty German divisions in the vi- 
cinity of Orel. On 5 August the city fell. 
More important, the Russians had finally 
and permanently seized the initiative and 
had begun the dogged battle of attrition 
in which the prize was not territory but 



17 CCS 103d Mtg, 23 Jul 43. 

18 CCS Spec Mtg, 26 Jul 43. 



destruction of the German armies. The 
seesaw campaign in which the Germans 
advanced in the summer and retreated in 
the winter was over. Henceforth the main 
German armies in the east would walk in 
only one direction— back toward the 
homeland. 

The war was, of course, not won in Au- 
gust 1943, and it could not have seemed 
so. But at least the brightening of Allied 
prospects was unmistakable. The opti- 
mistic might see victory dead ahead; the 
most pessimistic could feel maneuver 
room between their backs and the wall. 
It is certain that when the Combined 
Chiefs of Staff met at Quebec for another 
of the great plenary conferences they 
faced the future with a new sure knowl- 
edge of their power. This knowledge in 
turn sharpened the urgency to crystallize 
strategy. It was more clearly than ever up 
to the Allies to determine when and 
where the ultimate decision of arms 
would be sought. 

The Quebec Conference, which opened 
on 12 August, had, unlike the earlier 
meetings at Casablanca and Washington, 
no decisions to make on immediate op- 
erations in Europe. The next step in the 
Mediterranean, the invasion of Italy in 
the Naples areas, had already been de- 
cided. This fact cleared the decks for a 
full-dress debate on European strategy. 
Fundamental disagreement between the 
U.S. Chiefs of Staff and the British on 
how to defeat Germany had been adum- 
brated in September 1941, and thereafter 
had underlain all their discussions on 
strategy. But during the first half of 1943 
the opposition of strategic principle had 
been blurred because the immediate and 
pressing issue had always been to decide 



OVERLORD IN THE BALANCE (AUGUST-DECEMBER 194S) 89 




QUEBEC CONFERENCE, Seated, left to right: Prime Minister Mackenzie King 
of Canada, President Roosevelt, and Prime Minister Churchill Standing: General 
Arnold, Air Chief Marshal Portal, General Brooke, Admiral King, Field Marshal 
Dill, General Marshall, Admiral Pound, and Admiral Leahy. 



whether or not to carry out a specific op- 
eration in the Mediterranean. Once the 
Allies were committed in North Alrica, to 
reject exploitation in the Mediterranean 
meant to choose idleness for a consider- 
able Allied force and to surrender the 
clear military advantage of maintaining 
momentum against the enemy. But at- 
tacks in the Mediterranean had always 
been conceived as having limited, not de- 



cisive, objectives. The ultimate aim, the 
British had argued, was to knock Italy out 
of the war. With the invasion of the Ital- 
ian mainland, the course of action begun 
by torch would therefore reach its goal. 
After the defeat of Italy, continued attacks 
into the Axis underbelly would require 
new tactical and strategic justification. 
With the close of the 1943 summer of 
fensive, furthermore, the old argument in 



90 



CROSS CHANNEL ATTACK 



favor of Mediterranean ventures as 
interim operations designed to maintain 
pressure on the enemy while preparations 
for overlord were completed would no 
longer apply. On the contrary, for the first 
time since torch, Mediterranean opera- 
tions and the cross-Channel attack be- 
came clear-cut alternatives competing for 
consideration as the Allied main effort. 

From every standpoint the Quebec 
Conference seemed to present both the 
urgent need and an ideal opportunity to 
seek a firm resolution on future strategy 
in Europe. Aware of this, the Joint Chiefs 
of Staff made particularly careful prepara- 
tions to present their views. They ana- 
lyzed at length the procedure of previous 
conferences, the debating techniques of 
the British, and even the precise number 
of planners required to cope on equal 
terms with British staffs. Quite frankly 
they went to Quebec determined to make 
their ideas prevail by all the means at their 
disposal. 19 

This was to be, it must again be empha- 
sized, a friendly debate between Allies 
seeking the same end. Nevertheless it was 
serious, for each Ally brought to it deep 
and honest convictions. It therefore be- 
came a matter of grave importance for 
each to find the strongest possible grounds 
on which to rest his case. The American 
ground in earlier conferences had been 
relatively weak. In the first place the Brit- 
ish Chiefs of Staff had more readily avail- 
able and more complete information on 



19 Both the Joint Strategic Survey Committee and 
the Joint War Plans Committee made thorough ex- 
aminations of British techniques of argument and 
ways of meeting them. See JPS 189, Preparations for 
the Next U.S.-British Staff Conference, 25 May 43; 
JCS 422/1, quadrant, 25 Jul 43; Memos and staff 
studies in OPD file ABC 337 (25 May 43) passim. 



the European war because they were 
closer to the scene, because they had pre- 
sided over planning for European opera- 
tions almost two years before the Ameri- 
cans became involved, because they were 
served by a well-developed intelligence 
system for which the newly arrived Amer- 
icans had no equivalent, and finally be- 
cause their own planning staffs were gen- 
erally more numerous and more experi- 
enced. 20 These inequalities evened out 
only gradually as the U.S. Army grew 
and organized itself in the European and 
Mediterranean theaters. 

In the second place, the British Chiefs 
of Staff were a much more tightly knit or- 
ganization than the U.S. Joint Chiefs. 
This also was due to a longer familiarity 
with the problems of the European war, 
which had permitted them to iron out 
through long association and discussion 
both individual and service differences. 
It was more directly due, however, to the 
influence of the Prime Minister and the 
War Cabinet, who provided a large 
amount of daily guidance in strategic and 
political matters. 21 Through Lt. Gen. Sir 
Hastings Ismay, Military Chief of Staff to 
the Minister of Defence, who attended 
most Chiefs of Staff meetings, the mili- 
tary and political leaders were kept in 
close contact with each other and welded 
into a relatively homogeneous directorate 



20 The British brought a staff of 93 to the Wash- 
ington Conference in May, and in addition made 
considerable use of the Joint Staff Mission and diplo- 
matic personnel already in this country. The Amer- 
icans by contrast took only 56 officers to Quebec. See 
JPS 189 and various commentaries thereon in OPD 
file ABC 337 (25 May 43) . 

21 Cf. Winston S. Churchill, The Grand Alliance 
(New York, 1950) , p. 28; Eisenhower, Crusade in 
Europe, p. 61. 



OVERLORD IN THE BALANCE (AUGUST-DECEMBER 1943) 



91 



of the total British war effort. 22 The unity 
of British political and military policy 
was further insured by the British system 
of cabinet responsibility. Churchill, as 
Minister of Defence, together with his 
War Cabinet, was directly answerable to 
the House of Commons for military de- 
cisions. It behooved him then to keep in 
close touch with his military chiefs and to 
make certain that he fully understood and 
approved their decisions, even as to de- 
tail, in order that he could defend them 
later, if necessary. Churchill was per- 
sonally inclined, furthermore, to occupy 
himself even more intimately with mili- 
tary affairs than his position required. As 
a long-time student of tactics he could 
contribute substantially at the planning 
level to the conduct of the war. He at- 
tended and took active part in many of 
the regular Chiefs of Staff Committee 
meetings. He intervened constantly in 
the planning of operations, not only to 
enunciate principles but to suggest tacti- 
cal detail. As already noted, he played a 
leading role in the development of land- 
ing craft and the artificial ports. He con- 
cerned himself in the details of artillery 
and armored tactics. 23 

In all these matters he had a lively per- 
sonal interest. He sent along to the Army 
a stream of memoranda containing all 
manner of suggestions, some practical, 
some not. But all had in common a bold 
enthusiastic approach designed either to 
shock the planners out of what Churchill 
always feared was a narrow professional 

22 Ismay held this position under Churchill all 
during the war. Before Churchill became Prime 
Minister, Ismay was secretary of the Chiefs of Staff 
Committee. Interv, F. C. Pogue with Gen Ismay, 17 
Dec 46. Hist Div files. 

23 See Note by the Minister of Defence, 7 Oct 41, 
cited in Churchill, The Grand Alliance, pp. 498-500. 



view of the war or to cheer up his sub- 
ordinates when the outlook was black. 24 
After Dunkerque, when dispatches of 
disaster were piling up in the War Office 
and men were returning from the Conti- 
nent stripped of their weapons and often 
of their clothes, when there seemed to be 
no hope of giving them even rifles with 
which to defend their country, the Prime 
Minister wrote: "We are stronger than 
ever before. Look how many extra men 
we have here now. Form Leopard Bri- 
gades to tear and claw the enemy." 25 

Churchill's close personal leadership 
never amounted to dictatorship. Al- 
though he generally called the British 
tune in discussions with the Americans, 
it would be a mistake to assume an iden- 
tity between his views and those of the 
British Chiefs of Staff. Similarly it should 
be noted that what appeared as "British" 
views at the conferences were not neces- 
sarily endorsed by all British military 
men. "British" doubts concerning the 
feasibility of overlord, for instance, were 
never shared by General Morgan and his 
staff. 

Despite these differences of opinion, it 
remains true that there was a British point 
of view on strategy which Churchill and 
the British Chiefs of Staff consistently 
maintained. That view favored oppor- 
tunistic, peripheral operations aimed 
initially at the reduction of German 

24 This was the interpretation of both General 
Barker and General Morgan on the basis of their 
experience on the COSSAC staff. See Intervs, F. C. 
Pogue with Barker, 4 Oct 46, and Pogue with Mor- 
gan, 8 Feb 47. Hist Div files. It is worth noting in 
this connection Churchill's impatience with the 
stodgy military professional which runs through his 
account of World War I as a kind of leitmotif. See 
esp. Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis: 1915 
(New York, 1923), pp. 540-46. 

25 Interv with Gen Ismay, cited n. 22. 



92 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



power by indirect attack (by air over 
western Europe and by sea, air, and land 
in the Mediterranean), with the ultimate 
object of so weakening German defenses 
in France that a cross-Channel attack 
might be launched in the final phases of 
the war against an enemy whose will to re- 
sist was gravely shaken. 26 It was never 
clear precisely what degree of deteriora- 
tion this involved and no doubt opinions 
would have differed widely. What was 
central, however, to British strategy and 
consistently maintained by its advocates 
was that the date for the final assault 
across the Channel had to be contingent 
and indeterminate. 

On the American side there was rather 
less unanimity in the direction of the war. 
In the first place, traditional American 
isolationism had made this country wary 
of political involvement in Europe. The 
Joint Chiefs of Staff tended therefore to 
develop a purely military perspective that 
considered political implications chiefly 
with an eye to avoiding them. This per- 
spective accurately reflected the popular 
obsession with winning the war as quickly 
and as cheaply as possible— an obsession 
which allowed little room for considera- 
tion of America's postwar position. 27 One 

29 On the question of possible British political in- 
terests in the Mediterranean see below, p. 96, and cf. 
Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, pp. 194, 284; Stim- 
son and Bundy, On Active Service, p. 447. 

27 The President was always conscious of this popu- 
lar feeling. See, for example, Mtg, Roosevelt, Hop- 
kins, and JGS on board ship, 19 Nov 43. Dep C/S 
file 110.00 A 48-41 dr 155. The President said "that 
we should not get roped into accepting any European 
sphere of influence. We do not want to be compelled, 
for instance, to maintain United States troops in 
Yugoslavia." See also Memo, Col Gailey (OPD) for 
Gen Handy, Information from the White House, 30 
Jun, quoting portions of Cbl, Roosevelt to Churchill, 
29 Jun 44, in reference to the British proposal to 
divert anvil resources to the Adriatic. Roosevelt 



effect was to make the Joint Chiefs of Staff 
relatively independent of the President 
and State Department in formulating 
strategy. The President, unlike Churchill, 
seldom intervened in detailed military 
planning. He tended to make only the 
large decisions as between fully developed 
alternative courses of action. He was oc- 
cupied almost exclusively with large per- 
spectives and the political problems in- 
volved in the liberation of occupied 
countries, the employment of United Na- 
tions 28 forces, and dealings with foreign 
governments affected by proposed mili- 
tary operations. The President generally 
appeared at the Allied conferences as a 
defender of the strategy worked out by 
the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 29 Though ap- 
parently reasonably convinced of its 
soundness, he was still in the position of 
a man who having accepted persuasion 
from one quarter was psychologically pre- 
pared to listen to advice from another. 
The President, in short, because of his 
position, his experience and personality, 
and American opinion, did not create a 
unified American front comparable to the 
British front molded and inspired by the 
Prime Minister. 30 

In part, the lack of complete unity in 
American views can be traced to the di- 



wrote: "I would never survive even a minor set-back 
in Normandy if it were known that substantial 
troops were diverted to the Balkans." OPD files, exec 
10, item 71 (Information from the White House) . 

28 The term "United Nations" to designate the 
Allies was apparently first used by Roosevelt at the 
end of 1941. See Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, 
p. 458; cf. Ibid., pp. 548-49. 

29 An exception, of course, was the President's ini- 
tiative in pushing the North African operation. See 
above, Ch. I. 

30 Cf. on this point Stimson and Bundy, On Active 
Service, pp. 428, 439, and Ch. XVII passim; Sherwood, 
Roosevelt and Hopkins, p. 446. 



OVERLORD IN THE BALANCE (AUGUST-DECEMBER 1943) 



93 



vergent interests of the services. Before 
the establishment of the Joint Chiefs of 
Staff in 1942, the U.S. Army and Navy 
had had little experience in the sort of 
close co-operation now demanded of 
them. Agreement on joint strategy did 
not prove too difficult, but day-to-day im- 
plementation continually revealed dis- 
parities between the Army and Navy 
points of view. It was not only that the 
services had different habits of thought 
and organizational jealousies; they were 
split by the geography of the war. The 
Army's primary interest was in Europe 
where the bulk of its forces would be 
used. The Navy had a similar primary 
interest in the Pacific. The naval mem- 
bers of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admirals 
Leahy and King, were not opposed to 
overlord, nor to the basic strategy of de- 
feating Germany first. They simply lacked 
the U.S. Army's single-minded enthusi- 
asm for European projects. On the one 
hand, while there remained any doubt as 
to whether overlord would be mounted, 
they questioned the wisdom of hoarding 
resources in the United Kingdom and so 
delaying the day when the all-out offen- 
sive in the Pacific could be started. 31 On 
the other hand, they were more open than 
the Army to persuasion that overlord 
might be unnecessary. 

In July 1943 naval representatives on 
the Joint War Plans Committee and the 
Joint Planners actually proposed shifting 
U.S. strategy away from the overlord 
idea. 32 They argued that world condi- 

31 For instance, see JCS 83d and 84th Mtgs, 17, 18 
May 43; see also above, Ch. I. 

32 JPS 231, Adequacy of the trident Strategy, 26 
Jul 43. Colonel Bessell, Army member o£ the JWPC, 
concurred in the memorandum but his concurrence 
did not represent War Department opinion. See JCS 
444/1. 



tions which had made the cross-Channel 
project the best means of seeking a deci- 
sion with Germany had so changed as to 
"cast grave doubt over the roundup con- 
cept." The decisive defeat of the German 
armies, they believed, would, if necessary, 
be accomplished by Russia. They ac- 
cepted the original British idea of a cross- 
Channel operation in the final stages of 
the war, and concluded that, "without 
prejudice to Pacific and Burma opera- 
tions, the continuing success and great 
momentum of our Mediterranean opera- 
tions must carry on, at least until after 
Italy is knocked out of the war." The de- 
cision by the Combined Chiefs of Staff 
in May, to withdraw seven divisions from 
the Mediterranean for use in overlord, 
appeared to them unsound, since it would 
remove pressure from Germany, prevent- 
ing a maximum effort in Italy and a pos- 
sible opportunistic exploitation of Italian 
collapse through invasion of southern 
France. "If Germany chooses to fight in 
Italy," they wrote, "that is the place to 
fight her. There is, indeed, no doubt but 
that the combination of this constant 
wastage of Axis air power [through the 
combined bomber offensive] plus the 
elimination of Italy represents the maxi- 
mum possible 1943 Anglo-American con- 
tribution towards the defeat of the Eu- 
ropean Axis." 

The proposals, in short, completely re- 
versed the American strategic principles 
consistently defended up to that time by 
the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The paper, rep- 
resenting "a new trend in U.S. think- 
ing," went informally to Generally Mar- 
shall. 33 It was considered so seriously that 



33 Copy of JPS 231 (with attached buck slip) in 
C/S file 381 II. 



94 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



when General Barker, deputy COSSAC, 
arrived in Washington with the overlord 
plan he observed a "weakening" of the 
American attitude toward overlord. He 
reported to General Morgan that the 
weakening was induced, "as previously," 
by U.S. naval authorities. He thought he 
had come just in time to strengthen the 
War Department's hand. 34 Actually the 
War Department planners had not weak- 
ened. They had already begun a thor- 
oughgoing attack on the naval position 
and had presented a separate analysis of 
strategy for consideration by the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff. This returned to the tra- 
ditional U.S. view on overlord and re- 
affirmed the May decisions of the Com- 
bined Chiefs of Staff, especially in regard 
to the withdrawal of the seven battle- 
trained divisions from the Mediterranean. 
Admiral King did not defend the naval 
planners' report in the Joint Chiefs' next 
meeting on 7 August, and the traditional 
War Department view was accepted again 
as U.S. strategy. 35 

The flurry of planners' memoranda at 
the end of July 1943 was the Navy's only 
open challenge of General Marshall's Eu- 
ropean strategy. Admiral King himself 
was apparently content that, in discus- 

34 Morgan's notes on telephone conversation with 
Barker, 5 Aug 43. SHAEF SGS file 381 la. 

33 The original JWPC paper (JPS 231) , which set 
forth the naval point of view, was never presented to 
the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but it formed the basis for 
JCS 444, which did reach them. The latter paper is a 
slightly toned down version of JPS 231 based on the 
same strategic principles. The formula at the 7 
August meeting was to call for a "reconciling" of the 
reports of the Navy planners, JCS 444, and the Army 
planners' rejoinder, JCS 444/1. In fact what happened 
was that the Army views were accepted in toto and 
formed the basis for the U. S. Chiefs of Staff memo- 
randum submitted to the British at Quebec as CCS 
303. See OPD file ABC 381 Europe (5 Aug 43) and 
ABC 337 (25 May 43) . 



sions with the British, U.S. views on Eu- 
ropean operations should be the War De- 
partment's view for which General Mar- 
shall was the spokesman. 36 As European 
matters were the principal and by far the 
most controversial concern of the Com- 
bined Chiefs of Staff, General Marshall 
assumed the chief responsibility for de- 
fending U.S. strategy in debate with the 
British. To this responsibility Marshall 
brought both conviction and diplomatic 
skill. He was firm in his belief that the 
strategy evolved by the War Department 
was the correct strategy, yet he was al- 
ways willing to attend the possible merits 
of rival suggestions. He fought hard for 
roundup in July 1942 and lost primarily 
to the President's insistence on immediate 
action. Thereafter Marshall rode two 
horses, struggling to keep tight rein on 
Mediterranean commitments in order 
that bolero could proceed apace. He 
managed this feat by a series of com- 
promises. But, at Quebec, as has been 
suggested, the roads diverged. It seemed 
essential to choose between them. For 



36 On the other hand, General Marshall was scru- 
pulous in letting Admiral King speak first on Pacific 
matters. 

A graduate of the Virginia Military Institute in 
1901, Marshall was commissioned in the infantry. 
During World War I he was assigned to general staff 
duty and went overseas with the 1st Division, with 
which he served at Luneville, St. Mihiel, Picardy, 
and Cantigny. He worked on the plans for the St. 
Mihiel offensive and then became Chief of Opera- 
tions of First Army in the midst of the Meuse-Ar- 
gonne offensive. In May 1919 Marshall was appointed 
aide to General John J. Pershing and held that as- 
signment for the next five years. In 1936 and again 
in 1937 he commanded Red Forces in army maneu- 
vers. The following year he came to the War De- 
partment first as Assistant Chief of Staff, War Plans 
Division, and then as Deputy Chief of Staff. After a 
two months' tour as chief of a military mission to 
Brazil in 1939, he was appointed Chief of Staff of the 
Army. 



OVERLORD IN THE BALANCE (AUGUST-DECEMBER 1943) 



95 



the first time since July 1942 Marshall 
accepted the need for a showdown with 
the British and undertook to lead the 
fight. To his colleagues he said: "We 
must go into this argument in the spirit 
of winning. If, after fighting it out on 
that basis, the President and Prime Min- 
ister [decide] that the Mediterranean 
strategy should be adopted . . . the deci- 
sion [should] be made firm in order that 
definite plans could be made with reason- 
able expectation of their being carried 
out." 37 

Deeply as General Marshall opposed 
the Mediterranean strategy, he still pre- 
ferred to settle on that rather than face a 
series of emergency operations and a gen- 
erally hand-to-mouth strategy. This oppo- 
sition between a settled plan and a de- 
pendence on opportunity was probably 
the most serious difference between the 
American and British points of view— a 
rift wider and more difficult to reconcile 
than any differences over where and 
when the campaigns in Europe were to 
be fought. 

The British said in effect, "How can 
we tell what we should do six months or 
a year hence until we know how we come 
out of next month's action?" The Amer- 
icans retorted, "How do we know whether 
next month's action is wise unless we 
know where we want to be a year from 
now?" The positions were difficult to rec- 
oncile because ultimately both stemmed 
from the respective resources and experi- 
ences of the two nations. For a year and 
a half Great Britain stood alone on the 
edge of a hostile Europe fearful a good 
part of the time of being herself invaded 
by the Nazi conquerors. She stood 



87 JCS 104th Mtg, 15 Aug 43. 



counting up her resources and matching 
them against her responsibilities for the 
defense of her own shores and her life 
lines throughout the world. The deficit 
in means must have seemed appalling. 

From 1940 on it was obvious to British 
strategists that, if the war was to be won, 
eventually British armies would have to 
return to the Continent. But all their 
plans for such an eventuality had to recog- 
nize that a maximum effort might hurl 
about twenty divisions against the Atlan- 
tic Wall. Planners in 1941 and 1942 were 
bound to face strategy as primarily a 
problem of what could be done with such 
a relatively small army. Their invariable 
conclusion was that nothing could be 
done except under conditions of German 
collapse or a very great weakening in 
German morale. It should not be for- 
gotten that the ground war in Europe at 
this time was being fought by massed 
German and Russian armies of hundreds 
of divisions. How could the scales of this 
conflict be tipped by the addition of 
twenty divisions? On the other hand if 
those twenty divisions (the core of an ex- 
peditionary force of about one million 
men) were committed in an unsuccessful 
enterprise, it was probable that they 
could never be reconstituted. England's 
striking power on land would thus be 
fruitlessly dissipated. It is not strange 
then that the strategists looked to the 
fringes of the Continent, outside the area 
where the bulk of the German Army was 
engaged. Their best hope for eventual 
success seemed to be to nibble the Nazi 
monster down to size. When this might 
happen no one could foretell. It de- 
pended partly on Russian success, partly 
on their own success. If they could get 
away with the first nibble they might try 



96 



CROSS CHANNEL ATTACK 



a larger bite. Militarily they did not 
want rigid plans and long-range target 
dates. They did not want what General 
Brooke later called "a lawyer's agree- 
ment" to tie their hands. 38 They wanted 
maximum freedom to exploit whatever 
situation arose and promised the best 
chance of furthering their initial object 
of wearing down the German military 
power in preparation for the final blow. 
The Mediterranean, because of the weak- 
ness of Italy and because of the unusual 
number and variety of legitimate mili- 
tary objectives, was an ideal area in 
which to work out their policy. More- 
over, since the eighteenth century the 
Mediterranean had been an area of 
British political interest. Military aims 
and traditional political concern thus 
both focused on the European under- 
belly. 39 

America came into the war with his- 
toric consciousness of her great, unbeaten 
power. Although she was dangerously 
unprepared, her psychology from the 
beginning was offensive. Americans were 
confident they could build huge armies, 
navies, and air forces. For example the 
War Department "Victory Program," 



38 SCAEF 12th Mtg, 27 Mar 44. SHAEF SGS file 
381 I. Brooke was at the time refusing to make com- 
mitments on the invasion of southern France as a 
diversion for overlord (see Ch. V) . He said that 
"it was not militarily sound to run a war on a law- 
yer's agreement by making commitments ahead of 
time, thereby losing the necessary and desired flexi- 
bility to meet the ever changing conditions and cir- 
cumstances." 

39 See n. 26. It is impossible to assess what force 
political consideration may have had at any juncture 
in the debate, for neither the Prime Minister nor the 
British Chiefs ever put a political argument on the 
contemporary record. Even at this time (1950) Mr. 
Churchill apparently still does not defend the Med- 
iterranean strategy on political grounds. See Chur- 
chill, The Grand Allianc.e, pp. 660-61. 



prepared in September 1941 in answer 
to the President's request for an estimate 
of the Army's needs for waging war, con- 
templated an army of 215 divisions. 40 
The thought was then that the USSR 
might succumb and that America had to 
be ready to take on the German Army 
alone, except for the relatively small con- 
tributions of Great Britain. After Pearl 
Harbor the War Department published a 
Troop Basis calling for an army of more 
than ten million men. 41 As the war pro- 
gressed Soviet success made a huge U.S. 
field army unnecessary. But the very 
fact that Americans at the beginning con- 
templated taking on the German Army 
by themselves and felt it possible is a 
clue to their psychology. As U.S. war 
power accumulated, Americans became 
impatient to bring on the decisive trial 
of strength. It was evident that such a 
trial could never be made in the Medi- 
terranean. Moreover, the attempt to 
nibble away at the German power, the 
Joint Chiefs of Staff believed, would only 
result in attrition of their own strength. 
However great the reservoir of American 
military power, its application was lim- 
ited by the logistical difficulties of long 
sea communications and the chronic 
shortage of shipping. Every division sent 
into the Mediterranean was a division 
lost for the main battle. It could not be 
moved to another theater without ex- 
pending the same amount of shipping as 

40 Joint Board Estimate of United States Over-all 
Production Requirements, 11 Sep 41, JB 355, ser 707. 
OPD files. 

41 Both of these estimates were primarily for pur- 
poses of planning war production and not mobiliza- 
tion, but they are nonetheless symptomatic of the 
Army's expansive thinking. Cf. other estimates in 
early 1942 cited in K. R. Greenfield, R. R. Palmer, 
and B. I. Wylie, The Organization of Ground Com- 
bat Troops (Washington, 1947) , p. 198. 



OVERLORD IN THE BALANCE (AUGUST-DECEMBER 1943) 



97 



would be required to send a fresh divi- 
sion overseas from the United States. 42 
Its very presence in the Mediterranean 
sucked in shipping to sustain it and more 
divisions to reinforce it. The Mediter- 
ranean, General Marshall thought, was 
a vacuum into which American's great 
military might could be drawn off until 
there was nothing left with which to deal 
the decisive blow on the Continent. 43 

And what if, after committing the 
country's resources to the Mediterranean, 
they should be boxed up there, and de- 
stroyed? The Americans could not for- 
get that the Mediterranean was prac- 
tically a closed lake to which Spain held 
the western key. What if the Allied 
armies, after fighting hard for minor 
victories, should be cut off from the 
sources of supply? The possibility did 
not seem unlikely. Franco was a Fascist 
who had certain reasons to be grateful 
to Hitler and might be persuaded at least 
to turn the other way while German 
armies marched through to Gibraltar. 
This fear of being locked up in the Medi- 
terranean was never shared by the 
British, who had long been accustomed to 
faith in Gibraltar and diplomatic bul- 
warks in the Iberian Peninsula. But it 
remained a strong factor in American 
hostility to Mediterranean commitments 
until well into 1943, when it was finally 
concluded that the Germans no longer 
had enough spare divisions to seize the 
Iberian Peninsula. 44 



42 JCS 293, Limited Operations in the Mediter- 
ranean in 1943-44, 7 May 43. 

43 CCS 83d Mtg, 13 May 43. 

44 The fear of a German move through Spain was 
frequently expressed. See, for instance, JCS 52d and 
57th Mtgs, Jan 43; CCS 151/2, 17 Feb 43 and JCS Spec 
Mtg, 26 Jul 43. Appreciation that such a move was 
no longer possible was contained in JCS 438/1, JIC 



The differences of strategic concept 
were fully recognized by both the U.S. 
and British Chiefs of Staff. At Quebec 
they were squarely faced in a debate 
brought on by the Joint Chiefs' submis- 
sion of a paper outlining strategy for the 
defeat of the Axis in Europe. 45 Their 
paper called for no action. It was a sim- 
ple statement of principle, giving "over- 
riding priority" to overlord over all 
other European operations. At first read- 
ing General Brooke found it for the most 
part unexceptionable. He agreed that 
overlord "should constitute the major 
offensive for 1944 and that Italian opera- 
tions should be planned with this con- 
ception as a background." 46 That agree- 
ment, however, was not so positive as it 
sounded. The British view was that the 
Italian operations were essential steps on 
the road that led to overlord. Being 
essential rather than diversionary, they 
acquired in British eyes at least an equal 
importance with the operation for which 
they prepared. The British objected 
therefore to assigning "over-riding prior- 
ity" to the cross-Channel attack. The 
Joint Chiefs believed that, without such 
priority, Mediterranean operations would 
compete successfully for Allied resources 
and so perhaps make overlord impos- 
sible when the time came to mount it. 
For three days the debate precipitated by 
that phrase "over-riding priority" raged, 
often behind closed doors with no sec- 
retaries present. 

It was no mere verbal dispute. It 
tackled head on the issue of whether or 



Rpt, Estimate of the Enemy Situation, 1943-1944, 
European-jMediterranean Area, 7 May 43. 

45 See discussions of the Quebec Conference agenda, 
CCS 288 series. 

4 « CCS 108th Mtg, 15 Aug 43. 



98 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



not the Allies should base their strategy 
on a single-minded concentration on a 
cross-Channel attack in 1944. That there 
should be no doubt of the seriousness of 
the issue, General Marshall stated the 
American view in strong terms. If the 
Allies relied on opportunism, he said, 
they would be "opening a new concept 
which . . . weakened . . . [the] chances 
of an early victory and rendered neces- 
sary a reexamination of . . . [the] basic 
strategy with a possible readjustrnent 
towards the Pacific." 47 The threat had 
been used before, and was probably not 
taken very seriously. But there was no 
mistaking the new firmness in the Amer- 
ican stand. "The United States Chiefs 
of Staff believe that the acceptance of 
this decision [to grant over-riding prior- 
ity to overlord] must be without con- 
ditions and without mental reservation. 
They accept the fact that a grave emer- 
gency will always call for appropriate 
action to meet it. However, long range 
decision for the conduct of the war must 
not be dominated by possible eventu- 
alities." 48 The debate continued. 

On 17 August 1943, the Combined 
Chiefs at last agreed to a statement of 
policy which on the face of it was ac- 
ceptance of the American principle, but 
the wording was pregnant with mental 
reservations. Instead of giving overlord 
"over-riding priority," they proclaimed: 
"As between operation overlord and 
operations in the Mediterranean, where 
there is a shortage of resources, available 
resources will be distributed with the 
main object of insuring the success of 
overlord. Operations in the Mediter- 

« Ibid. 

* 8 CCS 303/1, Strategic Concept for the Defeat of 
the Axis in Europe, 16 Aug 43. 



ranean Theater will be carried out with 
the forces allotted at trident except as 
these may be varied by decision of the 
Combined Chiefs of Staff." 49 Possible 
eventualities still were riding high. 

American attempts to crystallize strat- 
egy were, of course, at bottom merely 
efforts to force the British Chiefs of Staff 
into a hard and fast commitment on 
overlord. How far they succeeded at 
Quebec is difficult to appraise. General 
Brooke, when directly challenged as to 
his faith in overlord, replied that he 
thought overlord would succeed pro- 
vided that the conditions of restricted 
enemy opposition as laid down in the 
plans were met. The Prime Minister in 
the course of both plenary sessions under- 
lined these conditions. If they were still 
unfulfilled when the target date became 
imminent, then he asked that the Com- 
bined Chiefs review the operation. So 
that they would have a second string to 
their bow, he suggested that planning be 
directed now for an alternative operation 
against Norway. In conversation with 
Marshall, on the other hand, Churchill 
said that he "had changed his mind re- 
garding overlord and that we should 
use every opportunity to further that 
operation." 50 He also told General Ismay 
after the conference that "the thing 
looked good." 61 He would not, however, 
commit himself on the issue of the rela- 
tive priorities of overlord and the Medi- 
terranean. In general it may be said that 
the British Chiefs and the Prime Min- 
ister at Quebec endorsed the principle of 
a cross-Channel invasion in 1944 but still 



* 9 CCS 303/3, 17 Aug 43. trident was the code name 
for the Washington Conference of May 1943. 
6° JCS 106th Mtg, 16 Aug 43. 
61 Interv with Gen Ismay cited n. 22. 



OVERLORD IN THE BALANCE (AUGUST-DECEMBER 1943) 



99 



entertained considerable reservations as 
to its feasibility at that date. It would 
take another stormy meeting in the 
winter to settle these for good. 

In the meantime, the reservations were 
less important than the decisions. In 
effect the Combined Chiefs at Quebec 
abided by their agreements of the Wash- 
ington Conference. They resisted sug- 
gestions that the seven battle-trained divi- 
sions ought not to be moved out of the 
Mediterranean. They approved General 
Morgan's overlord plan and ordered 
him to continue plans and preparations. 
They further suggested that the plan 
should be enlarged. The Prime Minister 
asked for an increase of the assaulting 
forces by at least 25 percent. He also de- 
sired a landing on the east coast of the 
Cotentin. General Marshall agreed. Al- 
though these recommendations were not 
embodied in a directive, they constituted 
an authorization to Morgan to overstep 
the limitations imposed on his planning 
by the Washington agreements. 52 

The overlord planners had also asked 
for a diversion against southern France to 
prevent the Germans from moving troops 
from the south to meet the main Allied 
assault in Normandy. The Quebec con- 
ferees accepted with very little discussion 
the desirability of such a diversion and 
ordered General Eisenhower, then com- 
manding general of the North African 
theater, to draw up plans for an actual 
operation. It was to be timed to coin- 
cide with overlord and have as its ob- 
jective the establishment of a lodgment 
in the Toulon-Marseille area with sub- 
sequent exploitation northward. The 
British expressed some tentative doubts 

52 Capt Mansergh (COSSAC Naval Staff) , Rpt on 
quadrant at COSSAC (43) 23d Mtg, 30 Aug 43. 



about the plan. General Brooke believed 
that the invasion should be attempted 
only if the Germans had been "forced to 
withdraw a number of their divisions 
from that area," 53 and the Prime Min- 
ister wondered whether air nourishment 
of the French guerilla forces in the region 
might not constitute an acceptable al- 
ternative. In the absence of a specific 
plan and before the Italian venture had 
been undertaken, the whole project was 
evidently highly speculative and the most 
that could be decided was to explore the 
possibilities. 

Even the possibilities were admittedly 
very limited. General Eisenhower was 
directed to plan on the basis of resources 
already allotted to his theater, and it was 
estimated that this would allow him an 
amphibious lift for only 27,000 troops 
and 1,500 vehicles— a lift, in other words, 
for about one division. It was further 
noted that "the ships and craft shown do 
not provide a balanced assault lift. . . ." 
However inadequate these resources 
might be, the Quebec planners ruled that 
nothing more would be available. "Aug- 
mentation is not considered practicable 
without drawing from overlord." 54 

Despite this ruling, planning would 
reveal in the months ahead that augmen- 
tation was essential, and in consequence 
the southern France invasion, though 
conceived by the Americans as an in- 
tegral part of overlord, would actually 
become another competitor for scarce re- 

83 1st Plenary (Citadel) Mtg, 19 Aug 43. OPD 
files, Min of quadrant Conf. 

64 CCS 328/1 Directive to General Eisenhower, 27 
Aug 43, Annex V. The origins and development of 
the southern France operation will be discussed in 
detail by Maj. J. D. T. Hamilton in Southern 
France and Alsace, a volume under preparation in 
this series. 



100 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



sources. On the other hand, by providing 
a means to employ forces already located 
in the Mediterranean in direct support 
of the attack against northwest Europe, 
it would prove a useful talking point 
against British advocacy of Balkan ad- 
ventures or an increased effort in Italy. 

For the fate of overlord, the casual 
suggestion to increase its size was prob- 
ably the most significant product of the 
Quebec Conference. It set in motion 
plans and preparations that acquired 
their own momentum, which with the 
mere passage of time became increasingly 
difficult to reverse. This fact underlines 
an important characteristic of all the de- 
bates among the Combined Chiefs of 
Staff. The debates always prefaced ac- 
tion. Action was required by circum- 
stances regardless of whether minds met 
or not. There was never any question of 
allowing differences to split the Anglo- 
American alliance. However great was 
the disparity in strategic thinking, the 
community of basic interests ran deeper. 
The need for common action was more 
vital than any principle under debate. 
Thus, although neither Americans nor 
British perceptibly yielded their separate 
points of view, practical decisions were 
made as if such yielding had taken place. 
The deadlock of ideas was broken by the 
practical politics of compromise, en- 
forced by the necessity of continuously 
acting against the enemy. 

Compromise, furthermore, was made 
possible, as well as necessary, by the 
equality of the Allies. The realization 
that neither America nor Great Britain 
could act alone was implicit in every dis- 
cussion and every decision. England's 
base and America's resources were alike 
indispensable for a decisive trial of 



strength with Germany. Each nation 
separately would have been doomed to a 
long and possibly futile struggle. 

Quebec was as inconclusive as the pre- 
vious meetings had been in attempting 
an unalterable definition of European 
strategy. But operation overlord came 
through the debates unscathed by any 
serious criticism, overlord was the 
weapon. Once forged, it would argue for 
its own use more eloquently than all the 
words in council. 

Landing Craft Again 

General Morgan did not wait for the 
decisions at Quebec to begin a re-exami- 
nation of his completed plan with the 
view to strengthening it. One of his first 
steps after the plan had been delivered to 
the British Chiefs of Staff was to ask his 
naval staff to estimate, first, the number 
of additional landing craft that would be 
required to load the vehicles of the two 
follow-up divisions tactically so that they 
could be used on D plus 1, and, second, 
the number of craft needed to lift an- 
other assault division. The figures sup- 
plied him on 27 July 1943 almost im- 
mediately became irrelevant. 55 Instead 
of being able to contemplate a larger 
assault, Morgan saw his already inade- 
quate supply of landing craft dwindling 
away. 

Of the 653 LCT's which the Washing- 
ton Conference allotted to overlord and 
which General Morgan from the out- 
set complained constituted a bare and 
dangerous minimum for the task, 44 had 



65 Memo, Capt Mansergh for COSSAC, Apprecia- 
tion of the Effect of the Provision of Extra Landing 
Craft and Shipping for Operation overlord, 27 Jul 
43. SHAEF SGS file (1944 Operations) . 



OVERLORD IN THE BALANCE (AUGUST-DECEMBER 1943) 



101 



been taken by the British Navy for net 
protection duties at Scapa Flow. It was 
possible, though not certain, that some 
might be released in time to take part in 
overlord. Still more serious, a large 
number of LCT's had to be converted 
into close-support craft for the assault 
because the Combined Chiefs had made 
almost no provision for such craft. Al- 
though the burden of neutralizing the 
enemy coastal and beach defenses would 
be undertaken by the air forces and 
naval vessels, the heavy preparatory fires 
would have to be lifted some minutes 
before the assault craft actually touched 
down. It was never imagined that pre- 
paratory fire could destroy any significant 
proportion of the enemy defenses. The 
most it could do would be to prevent the 
enemy from manning his guns effectively 
while the bombardment was in progress. 
It was therefore essential for the assault- 
ing force to keep up neutralizing fire 
until the last possible moment. That 
meant small craft, armored and equipped 
with guns and rockets, which could 
maneuver close to the shore and fire as 
the assault waves rolled in. To perform 
this vital task, the Washington Confer- 
ence allotted overlord just thirteen 
LCG's (Landing Craft, Gun). Early in 
August 1943, COSSAC was informed that 
only seven of these craft could be deliv- 
ered in time; the rest would be a month 
late. General Morgan took the oppor- 
tunity to raise the whole question of the 
inadequacy of the planned close support. 
As a result, the British Chiefs of Staff 
invited him on 12 August to prepare a 
detailed report on the shortage of landing 
craft "and other naval equipment" for 

OVERLORD. 56 

66 COS (43) 186th Mtg (0) , 12 Aug 43. 



General Morgan rolled up his sleeves 
and accepted the invitation with zest. He 
told 21 Army Group, which was particu- 
larly concerned over the shortage of sup- 
port craft, that he would take full ad- 
vantage of the opportunity offered him 
to expound the subject of landing craft 
shortages. "I am aiming," he said, "to 
give the Chiefs a proper earful." 57 

Facts for the earful were supplied by 
his naval staff, which calculated short- 
ages based solely on current allocations 
and the three-division assault plan. Alto- 
gether about one-quarter of the 648 
LCT's planned for the assault lift were, 
for various reasons, no longer available. 
In addition to the 44 already noted which 
were being used at Scapa Flow, 36 were 
to be converted to LCT(R)'s (rocket- 
carrying craft), 48 would be armored to 
carry direct-support high-explosive weap- 
ons, and 36 would probably be needed 
for close support of the U.S. assault divi- 
sion. The latter estimate, in reality, was 
very low. General Devers, ETOUSA 
commanding general, subsequently cal- 
culated that the American assault divi- 
sion would require 56 support craft of 
the types that used LCT hulls or the 
equivalent. The net deficit Navy plan- 
ners set at 164 LCT's as well as 7 
LCI(L)'s that had been converted into 
headquarters ships. 58 

How was this deficit to be made up? 
The U.S. Chiefs of Staff held out little 
hope that the craft might come from 



5T Ltr, Morgan (COSSAC) to Maj Gen W. D. 
Morgan (CofS 21 Army Group) , 18 Aug 43. SHAEF 
SGS file 560 I. 

68 COSSAC (43) 50, Landing Craft for overlord, 
10 Sep 43; Memo, Devers for COSSAC, Support Craft 
Required per U.S. Assault Division, 15 Oct 43. 
SHAEF SGS file 560 I. 



102 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



American sources. The United States, 
they decided, could not assign additional 
LCT's to the United Kingdom to replace 
those diverted from overlord to Scapa 
Flow defense duties. 59 The Joint Chiefs 
declared that the United States had never 
built any gun-support craft and did not 
intend to. 60 On 10 August Admiral King 
wrote to Admiral Stark: "Production in 
the U.S. and requirements of other 
theaters will permit no advancement of 
present schedule of bolero landing craft 
to come from the United States mainland. 
The above matters are being studied at 
the present time and you will be informed 
when decisions are reached." 61 The deci- 
sion was reached a few days later to ex- 
plore the possibility of increasing produc- 
tion, and Admiral King then said he felt 
sure some increase could be achieved. But 
there was considerable doubt whether 
any increases, even if effected, could be 
felt in time for overlord. The program 
of U.S. landing craft production re- 
mained for several weeks clouded with 
uncertainty. 

British production offered no better 
hope. The shipbuilding industry in the 
United Kingdom was near the saturation 
point, especially as regards the employ- 
ment of available skilled labor. The 
manufacture of landing craft had already 
been expanded to the point where it was 
consuming a quarter of all the steel 
worked into new hulls. To increase it 
further would have involved a host of 
technical difficulties which seemed un- 



68 COS (43) 175th Mtg (0) , 29 Jul 43. 

60 Memo, Adm Creasy for COSSAC, Provision of 
Support Craft— Progress Report, 2 Sep 43. SHAEF 
SGS file 560 I. 

ei Ltr, King to ComNavEu, 10 Aug 43. SHAEF 
SGS file 560 I. 



economical to British authorities. 62 Not 
until later in the fall did the need for 
more craft appear so urgent that the 
Prime Minister intervened to cancel cer- 
tain ship construction in order to make 
way for an increase of about sixty landing 
craft for overlord. At the moment, Gen- 
eral Morgan's request for a revision of 
the whole shipbuilding program was 
turned down by the British Chiefs of 
Staff. 63 

The problem of how to make good 
the deficit in landing craft for a three- 
division assault had received only a pre- 
liminary examination when word came 
from Quebec that the Prime Minister 
wanted the assault increased to four divi- 
sions. 64 The British Chiefs of Staff asked 
General Morgan to report on that pos- 
sibility. By the end of September, COS- 
SAC completed a thorough re-examina- 
tion. So much debate and hypothesis had 
by that time clouded the issue that Gen- 
eral Morgan undertook to start afresh, 
recalculate his requirements, and restate 
his tactical thinking. 

"My original Directive" he began, 
"placed at my disposal a quantity of 
landing craft which bore little or no rela- 
tion, as to numbers and types, to the 
actual requirements of the proposed 
operation." Now, he continued, it was 
proposed to strengthen the operation, 
which he fully conceded needed strength- 
ening. But did this mean adding a fourth 
division to the assault? General Morgan 
thought not. He pointed out the danger- 
ous weaknesses of the plan as it stood, 
weaknesses which were thrust on it by the 

62 Information supplied by the British Admiralty. 

63 COS (43) 566 (0) , Availability of Landing Craft 
(Tanks) for overlord, 22 Sep 43. 

84 Cbl cited at COS (43) 209th Mtg (0) , 7 Sep 43. 



OVERLORD IN THE BALANCE (AUGUST-DECEMBER 1943) 



103 



inadequacy of the landing craft allotted. 
"Detailed analysis of the present plan 
shows that while the three assault divi- 
sions are only barely adequately mounted 
in craft of suitable types, the immediate 
follow-up formations are most inade- 
quately mounted, and there is a danger- 
ous gap on D-plus-1 day." A large pro- 
portion of the follow-up forces being 
mounted in ordinary shipping could not 
be tactically loaded and thus would not 
be operationally available on the far 
shore until twelve hours after landing. 
In short most of them were "follow-up" 
in name only; they would not be in posi- 
tion immediately to reinforce the assault 
troops. General Morgan therefore rec- 
ommended that, before any considera- 
tion be given to increasing the number 
of assaulting divisions, all additional 
landing craft that could be raked up 
should be put in to strengthen the follow- 
up and provide a floating reserve. "We 
already have far too high a proportion of 
our goods in the shop window," he said. 
"To consider any increase in this pro- 
portion without adequate stocking of the 
back premises would in my opinion be 
basically unsound." 65 

Morgan's new calculations of craft 
needed to permit the landing of two full 
divisions in the follow-up for use on 
D plus 1 showed a deficit of 251 LCT's 
for a three-division assault and 389 for a 
four-division assault. In addition, for a 
four-division assault there would be a 
shortage of more than 150 support craft 
using LCT or equivalent hulls. 

Quite apart from this very large land- 
ing craft requirement, the four-division 



assault struck General Morgan as unwise 
because it would necessitate broadening 
the assault front. Extension to the east 
he believed would bring the assaulting 
troops within range of the Le Havre 
coastal guns, which were among the most 
formidable in the Atlantic Wall. Ex- 
tension on the right flank of the assault 
would involve landing on the beaches 
northwest of the Carentan estuary. Re- 
versing his previous stand that this would 
be desirable, General Morgan now noted 
that the Germans had already begun 
flooding the hinterland of the Cotentin 
and that therefore the contemplated 
assault in that area was unsound. 

The British Chiefs of Staff were not 
impressed with this argument and con- 
tinue to advocate a four-division assault, 
the fourth division to be American and 
to be employed against the east Cotentin. 
No suggestions were made as to how the 
evident difficulties might be overcome. 66 

However the strengthening of over- 
lord was to be accomplished, there was 
general agreement that strengthening 
was needed, and that this would require 
large new increments of landing craft. In 
the urgent need to find these craft, the 
question of their tactical employment for 
the moment took a back seat. 

In September Donald Nelson, chair- 
man of the U.S. War Production Board, 
went to London and talked to General 
Morgan and his staff about landing craft 
requirements. As a result of his conver- 
sations he cabled Charles E. Wilson his 
conviction that LST's and LCT's were 
the "most important single instrument of 
war from the point of view of the Euro- 



65 COS (43) 596 (0) , 30 Sep 43. 



06 COS (43) 236th Mtg, 4 Oct 43. 



104 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



pean Theater," and that the require- 
ments for them had been "grossly under- 
stated." 67 

Planning adequate supplies of landing 
craft, however, was still complicated by 
the competition of other parts of the war 
production program for critical war 
materials, particularly steel plate and 
marine engines. Equally important was 
the competition between landing craft 
and other shipping for priority in the 
nation's crowded shipyards. The Navy's 
1944 shipbuilding program called for a 
50 percent increase of tonnage over the 
previous year, while the Maritime Com- 
mission's schedules for merchant ship- 
building remained about the same as 
before. To superimpose on this large 
shipbuilding commitment an increase in 
landing craft production schedules re- 
quired a careful scrutiny of strategic 
needs for various types of shipping. Fur- 
thermore, if changes were to be made in 
apportioning materials and facilities, 
they had to be made long in advance of 
anticipated needs since readjustments in 
the program required time— time to can- 
cel contracts for one type of vessel and 
let contracts for another, time to com- 
plete construction already under way on 
one type and initiate construction of 
another. A large part of the Navy's 1944 
shipbuilding program consisted of small 
vessels and destroyer escorts which used 
mostly the same tools, materials, and 
yards as landing craft. 68 

67 Cbl, Nelson to Wilson, 27 Sep 43, cited in George 
E. Mowry, Landing Craft and the WPB (Historical 
Reports on War Administration: WPB Special Study 
No. 11), rev. ed. (Washington, 1946), p. 29. Wilson 
was chairman of the Production Executive Commit- 
tee, War Production Board. 

68 Mowry, Landing Craft and the WPB, pp. 33-34, 
51-52. 



Time was already short when the ques- 
tion of increasing landing craft produc- 
tion was officially raised at Quebec and 
Admiral King told the Combined Chiefs 
of Staff that he was examining the possi- 
bility of building more landing craft by 
halting the construction of 110-foot sub- 
chasers. This, he thought, might result 
in an increase of 25 percent, but the esti- 
mate was not yet firm. 69 On 20 August 
1943, planners, after tentative studies, 
reported that any acceleration in landing 
craft production would probably not be 
felt before 1 April 1944. 70 

On 13 September the Chief of Naval 
Operations submitted a new schedule 
calling for a 35 percent increase in land- 
ing craft production, saying that it "was 
designed to meet the requirements of the 
operations agreed upon in quadrant." 
The Joint Staff Planners commenting 
thereon agreed, with qualifications. 71 
"Landing craft destined for overlord/' 
they pointed out, "will arrive in time for 
the operation [that is, craft already al- 
lotted] though the complete allotment of 
some types from the United States will not 
arrive as early as desired by COSSAC. 
The most critical situation will exist in 
LCT (5 and 6)'s. The only solution (if 
the late arrival cannot be accepted) seems 
to be additional withdrawals from the 
MEDITERRANEAN. There is no in- 
creased U.S. production in this type of 
craft. . . . The quadrant decision relative 
to overlord will therefore not be affected 



39 CCS lllth Mtg, 18 Aug 43. 

70 CCS 314/3, Allocation of Landing Craft (Opera- 
tion overlord — Vehicle Lift) , 20 Aug 43. 

71 JCS 462/3, Landing Ships and Craft— Means to 
Increase U.S. Production, 1 Oct 43, with incl, Ltr, 
Vice Chief of Naval Operations to Chiefs of Bureaus, 
13 Sep 43. 



OVERLORD IN THE BALANCE (AUGUST-DECEMBER 1943) 



105 



by the increased production of landing 
craft." 

At the end of October 1943 logistical 
planners had prepared another study 
which indicated that landing craft pro- 
duction could be further increased, but 
no decision was made and the 1 Novem- 
ber production schedules virtually re- 
peated the 1 October schedule. In the 
meantime General Morgan, visiting 
Washington, was led to believe that "if 
sufficiently powerful pressure was applied 
at the right spot, U.S. landing craft pro- 
duction . . . [could] in fact be in- 
creased. . . ." Although he observed that it 
was "extremely difficult to find out just 
exactly whence to have this pressure ap- 
plied. . . ," he still hoped to be able to 
"bring matters to a head." 72 In that hope 
he was evidently disappointed. As time 
passed and action was postponed the pros- 
pects of producing more craft in time for 
overlord faded. 

Thenceforward procurement of land- 
ing craft for overlord proceeded on the 
basis of making the most of existing sup- 
ply. The principal methods of stretching 
the supply were reallocation from the 
Mediterranean theater, a comb-out of 
training facilities in the United States 
and United Kingdom, increase in service- 
ability rates, and increased loading. All 
these expedients were fully explored in 
the months following General Eisen- 
hower's assumption of the Supreme Com- 
mand in January 1944, but up to the last 
minute the situation remained tight and 
threatened to compromise the tactical 
dispositions for the assault. 



72 Ltr, Morgan to Barker, 28 Oct 43. Barker Pa- 
pers. See Bibliographical Note. 



Questions of Command 

For overlord planners the months fol- 
lowing Quebec were filled with frustra- 
tions. The order to re-examine the 
strength of the assault brought them up 
against the apparently unanswerable 
question of landing craft availability. 
Still more baffling was the seemingly 
simple directive to carry on with plans 
and preparations. What did it mean? 
General Morgan's original job— the only 
job for which he had a clear-cut directive 
—was finished. He had been told to study 
the possibilities of mounting a cross- 
Channel invasion of a certain size at a 
certain date and say by means of an out- 
line plan whether such an operation was 
feasible. The verdict had been returned. 
To continue planning could mean only 
to plan tactically, to fill in the detail of 
how the operation as outlined could be 
carried out. But this was no job for a 
small planning group designed as the 
nucleus for the Supreme Headquarters. 
It could be done only by the tactical 
headquarters which would have direct 
control of the operation: army group, 
army, and corps. The Quebec order, 
therefore, was actually an order to COS- 
SAC to farm out and co-ordinate tactical 
planning. Such a task obviously required 
executive authority. General Morgan 
was legally only the chief of a planning 
group, without command functions. He 
was, as he pointed out, a relatively junior 
officer. 73 It was out of the question to 
give him the substance of command, but 
he was at length given the shadow. The 



73 Ltr, Morgan to Hollis (Secy of War Cabinet) , 
2 Sep 43. SHAEF SGS file 322.011/2. 



106 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



Combined Chiefs of Staff in September 
made him temporarily responsible for 
"taking the necessary executive action to 
implement" the COSSAC plans, pending 
the appointment of a supreme com- 
mander. 74 That this was a stopgap expe- 
dient scarcely adequate for the situation 
was apparent to everyone and to no one 
more painfully than to General Morgan 
himself. He wrote to General Devers: 
"While I hate the sight of this whole 
business I am completely at a loss to sug- 
gest anything better, short, of course, of 
appointing the great man himself which 
appears to be utterly impossible." 75 

The quasi command thus conferred on 
General Morgan had grave limitations. 
Although, with the backing of the Com- 
bined Chiefs, he could now take "exec- 
utive action" he could not, on his own, 
make command decisions. One command 
decision, in particular, was immediately 
required if preparations for overlord 
were to go forward: what was to be the 
organization of command of the ground 
forces in the assault and in the successive 
phases thereafter? 

The basic principles of combined com- 
mand had been outlined in 1942 and 
agreed to by the Combined Chiefs of Staff 
in the fall of that year. 76 They stemmed 
from the principle approved at the Ar- 
cadia Conference that one Allied com- 
mander should have supreme command 
in each theater of operations. 77 But agree- 



74 Annex I to COS (43) 206th Mtg (0) , 3 Sep 43. 
75 Ltr, Morgan to Devers, 2 Sep 43. SHAEF SGS 
file 322.011/2. 

76 CCS 75/3, System of Command for Combined 
United States-British Operations, 21 Oct 42. 

77 The Chiefs of Staff Conference, ABC-4, JSSC 2. 
25 Dec 41. arcadia Conf Bk. (Marshall's words at 
this meeting are quoted in Sherwood, Roosevelt and 
Hopkins, pp. 455-57.) The principle of unity of 



ment on principle still left a wide area 
for debate on the detailed organization 
of the command for specific operations. 
The COSSAC plan for overlord con- 
templated the carrying out of a single 
tactical mission by a task force of army 
size and mixed nationality. There was no 
question of the need for a single unified 
command over all ground forces in the 
assault phase. The closest co-ordination 
was essential, both because the imme- 
diate objective was the establishment of 
a single bridgehead and because the 
enemy could be expected to probe out 
the boundary between U.S. and British 
forces and, reasoning that it represented 
a point of special weakness, attempt to 
drive a wedge into it. There was, on the 
other hand, no question of the necessity 
for having both American and British 
troops take part in the assault. 78 Military 
and political considerations both re- 
quired it. The administrative and logis- 
tical organizations of the U.S. and British 
armies were so different that to attempt 
to pass one army through the beachhead 
established and organized by the other 
would have involved critical difficulties. 
Even if these difficulties could have been 
accepted, it was still unthinkable that the 
first blow of the supreme offensive of the 



command was embodied first in the Directive to the 
Supreme Commander in the ABDA Area, ABC-4/5, 
10 Jan 42. arcadia Conf Bk. The directive assigned 
command over "all armed forces, afloat, ashore, and 
in the air," that belonged to the four participating 
powers (Australia, the Netherlands, United King- 
dom, and United States) . 

78 In July General Barker had written: "It can be 
accepted as an absolute certainty that the PM would 
not, for one moment, allow the assault to be made 
wholly by American troops. The same is true with 
relation to the U.S. Government. We must be prac- 
tical about this and face facts." Memo, Barker for 
Morgan, 4 Jul 43. Barker Papers. 



OVERLORD IN THE BALANCE (AUGUST-DECEMBER 1943) 



107 



Western Allies should be struck by the 
armies of only one of them. 

The situation envisaged by overlord 
was actually not very different from that 
existing in the attack on Salerno where a 
British corps was subordinated to an 
American army controlling the assault. 
Apparently, however, it seemed different, 
for the Salerno experience with mixed 
tactical command was conspicuously ab- 
sent from the discussion of the overlord 
problem. 70 

In the overlord plan, COSSAC recom- 
mended that one U.S. division be em- 
ployed on the right of the assault, two 
British divisions on the left, and that all 
three be initially under a British army 
commander. 80 As soon as an American 
army was established on the Continent, 
Allied field command would pass to a 
British army group, which would con- 
tinue to exercise operational control un- 
til the capture of the Brittany peninsula 
or the establishment of a U.S. army 
group in France, whichever occurred 
first. Morgan's reason for recommending 
initially a British chain of command was 
his feeling that it would be easier for 
British commanders to organize and co- 
ordinate an assault from a British base. 
It is clear, further, that General Morgan 
wrote the overlord plan under the im- 
pression that the supreme commander 
would also be British. 81 



79 See, however, below (pp. 110-11) for citation of 
the Sulerno experience in a different connection. 

80 COS (43) 416 (0) , Operation overlord, Report 
and Appreciation, 30 Jul 43, Part I, par. 40. SHAEF 
SGS file 381 la. 

81 At the first meeting of the COSSAC staff, 17 
April 1943, Morgan announced that Casablanca had 
decided the invasion was to be commanded by a 
British supreme commander with an American dep- 
uty. 



Planning recommendations are one 
thing; decision another. It was true that 
the overlord plan had been approved 
without change by the Combined Chiefs; 
but, when General Morgan pressed for a 
ruling on whether this over-all approval 
could be taken to apply to the recom- 
mendations on command, he was told 
that the Combined Chiefs had not been 
aware of any "special implications" of 
approving the command system, and that 
in any case details of the plan were sub- 
ject to change by the supreme com- 
mander when appointed. 82 General Mor- 
gan replied that a firm decision was re- 
quired at once if the operation was to 
take place on schedule, and he asked the 
Combined Chiefs to make that decision. 83 

The British Chiefs of Staff then de- 
cided to accept General Morgan's pro- 
posals in the overlord plan as repre- 
senting their own point of view, and 
asked for American comment. 84 The 
Americans at once began formulating 
counterproposals. They had not agreed 
on any formal reply to the British, how- 
ever, when the whole question was de- 
flected by the introduction of a new and 
more pressing problem: the need for im- 
mediate establishment of an over-all tac- 
tical air command. 

A tentative organization of the British 
tactical air forces for support of the in- 
vasion had already been set up under 
Air Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, 
who had been authorized to make plan- 
ning decisions on the use of the combined 
U.S. and British tactical air forces with- 
out prejudice to the later appointment of 

8 2 COS (43) 206th Mtg (0) , 3 Sep 43. 

83 COS (43) 525 (0) , Operation "overlord"— Com- 
mand and Control, 11 Sep 43. 

84 COS (43) 217th Mtg (0) , 16 Sep 43. 



108 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



another air commander-in-chief. 85 At 
Quebec in August 1943, the Combined 
Chiefs agreed to name Leigh-Mallory 
Commander-in-Chief, AEAF (Allied Ex- 
peditionary Air Force), but delayed 
writing a directive. 86 This action, in 
effect, formalized his authority to make 
combined planning decisions on air mat- 
ters for overlord, but he remained with- 
out a combined command. About the 
middle of September Maj. Gen. Lewis H. 
Brereton arrived in England from the 
Middle East with orders to organize a 
U.S. tactical air force in the United King- 
dom. This became the Ninth Air Force, 
formed initially with the headquarters of 
the Ninth Air Force from the Middle 
East and planes from the Eighth Air Sup- 
port Command taken over from General 
Eaker's command. 

In October the British Chiefs of Staff 
pressed for the immediate integration of 
U.S. and British tactical air forces under 
Leigh-Mallory's command, and submit- 
ted to the U.S. Chiefs on the 12th a draft 
directive outlining AEAF powers and 
responsibilities. 87 Their earlier request, 
meanwhile, for U.S. views on Morgan's 
command and control recommendations 
was still unanswered. On 19 October the 
Joint Chiefs commented on both British 
papers in the same vein. To the pro- 
posed directive to the Commander-in- 
Chief, AEAF, they replied, "It is the view 
of the United States Chiefs of Staff that 
the issuance by the Chiefs of Staff of 
directives to subordinates of the Supreme 
Allied Commander is unsound." This 



85 COS (43) 138th Mtg (0) , 26 Jun 43. See above, 
Ch. II. 

86 CCS 113th Mtg, 20 Aug 43. 

87 CCS 304/2, Directive to the Supreme Allied 
Commander for Operation "Overlord," 12 Oct 43. 



principle applied equally, the Joint 
Chiefs believed, to the proposed succes- 
sive command of ground forces in the 
assault. To specify the organization of 
command under the supreme com- 
mander would be to encroach on his pre- 
rogative. 88 

These two negative replies funneled 
the discussions on overlord command 
into a single debate over the authority of 
the supreme commander, as the Com- 
bined Chiefs began the delicate job of 
writing a directive for him. When they 
•undertook the task, the identity of the 
supreme commander was still unsettled, 
but it was known at least that he would 
be an American and there was a strong 
presumption that the choice would be 
General Marshall. 89 It was therefore a 
good bet that decisions left to the dis- 
cretion of the supreme commander 
would in fact reflect American views on 
command. 

In contrast to the British, the U.S. 
Army always insisted on permitting a 
field commander the maximum freedom 
and discretionary power in the exercise 
of his command. The Americans be- 
lieved that it was sufficient for the Com- 
bined Chiefs to assign the supreme com- 
mander a mission and leave to his dis- 
cretion all the details of how that mission 
should be carried out. They viewed with 
alarm the British tendency to extend the 
control from the highest level down 
through the echelons of command, nar- 
rowly specifying the functions of sub- 
ordinate commanders. When Eisen- 



88 CCS 304/3 and 304/4, 19 Oct 43. All the papers 
in the 304 series bear the title as given in note 87 ex- 
cept 304/1 and 304/4. The subject of these latter two 
is "Command and Control for Operation 'Overlord'." 

89 See below, pp. 112-14. 



OVERLORD IN THE BALANCE (AUGUST-DECEMBER 1943) 



109 



hower heard, after his appointment to 
the supreme command of overlord, that 
the British Chiefs of Staff proposed to 
dictate the detailed composition of the 
tactical air forces under him, he com- 
plained not only against the specific pro- 
posal but against what he called the 
British tendency to freeze organization so 
that commanders could not use trusted 
subordinates in their proper spheres. 90 
The British position seems to have been 
precisely that they were hesitant to trust 
their subordinates. The Prime Minister 
wrote: "In practice it is found not suffi- 
cient for a Government to give a General 
a directive to beat the enemy and wait 
to see what happens. . . . The General 
may well be below the level of his 
task. ... A definite measure of guidance 
and control is required from the Staffs 
and from high Government authorities. 
It would not be in accordance with the 
British view that any such element should 
be ruled out." 81 

It was against this background of dif- 
fering conceptions of the basic principles 
of command that the specific debates on 
overlord command took place between 
the Americans and the British. The prin- 
cipal objections which the Americans ad- 
vanced to COSSAC's proposals on succes- 
sive command in the invasion were, first, 
that they would have subordinated Amer- 
ican units of division size and smaller to 
direct British command in violation of 
the Casablanca declaration, and, second, 
that they seemed to exclude the supreme 
commander from operational control of 
the assault and early build-up phases. 

90 Cbl, Eisenhower to Marshall, W8967, 31 Dec 43. 
WD Cable log. 

" Minute, 24 Oct 43, Annex II to Min, COS (43) 
209th Mtg (0) , 25 Oct 43. 



General Devers, in the first formal com- 
mentary on the COSSAC proposals, 
argued that both objections could be met 
by having the assault divisions controlled 
by U.S. and British corps commanders 
whose efforts in turn would be co-ordi- 
nated under direct command of the 
supreme commander through an advance 
headquarters. COSSAC replied that the 
Devers plan was probably unworkable. 
Supreme Headquarters would not be set 
up for tactical command. It would not 
be organized to control the detail that 
normally flowed through a field army. 
Furthermore it would be impossible for 
the supreme commander to be physically 
located so that he could exercise field 
command of the assaulting forces and 
at the same time carry out his basic 
mission of co-ordinating the whole op- 
eration through relations with ETOUSA, 
the air and naval commands, and U.S. 
and British army group headquarters 
and service ministries, all either located 
in London or having established liaison 
and communication with the capital. 92 
Despite this criticism, the War De- 
partment continued to advocate some 
measure of direct control by the supreme 
commander in the assault. The Devers 
plan, however, was modified to restore 
an army commander to take direct com- 
mand. The War Department believed 
that the assault army should be Amer- 
ican, not British, and this view was ap- 
parently accepted as a basis for discussion 
although it was not at once embodied in 
a written agreement. War Department 
thinking, reflected in a series of draft 

92 Ltr, Devers to Morgan (unsgd) , 4 Sep 43; Memo, 
Comments on General Devers' Letter on Plan for 
Command and Control ot Operation "overlord." 
SHAEF SGS file 322.011/2. 



110 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



memoranda and reports during Septem- 
ber and October, 93 envisaged a command 
setup somewhat as follows: the assault 
would be initially under the Command- 
ing General, First U.S. Army, whose 
forces would consist of airborne troops, 
a British corps, U.S. corps, and Canadian 
corps, each to contribute one division to 
the assault. "During the period from a 
date prior to the assault to be designated 
by SAC 94 until CG, First U.S. Army re- 
linquishes the overall command of forces 
on the continent to British 21st Army 
Group, control of operations will be 
exercised directly by SAC to First 
Army." 05 After the first three corps had 
built up on the Continent, a British army 
headquarters would be established. At 
the same time the Continental field com- 
mand would pass to 21 Army Group. The 
supreme commander's control of the 
operation would then be exercised 
through army group to U.S. and British 
armies. On the arrival of the second 
U.S. army, First U.S. Army Group would 
assume direct command of all American 
forces under the supreme Allied com- 
mander. 

There was no argument about the ar- 
rangements thus outlined for the build- 
up phase. General Morgan, however, was 
still unable to accept the concept of the 
supreme commander's direct interven- 
tion in the assault. He was, in fact, unable 
to understand just what was meant. After 
considerable discussion of the matter in 
Washington during his visit in October, 
he wrote: 



93 OPD file ABC 381 (22-1-43) sec. 1. 

94 The Supreme Allied Commander. 

95 Draft Memo, Col Roberts (JWPC) for General 
Handy for CofS, 18 Oct 43. OPD file ABC 384 Europe 
(5 Aug 43) sec. la. 



There persists here the thought that S.A.C. 
should have some direct connection with the 
army of assault. Now, what this direct con- 
nection is to consist of I cannot for the mo- 
ment say. I am completely bogged down for 
the moment in the differences between our 
two languages. It seems that the word "com- 
mand" has two different meanings in our 
two services. All I can get out of General 
Marshall is that he has a sensation that he 
should in some way control the assaulting 
army, although I am quite sure that his con- 
ception falls far short of what we understand 
by the term "command". As far as I can 
make out, it also falls far short of the Ameri- 
can conception of command. But how to de- 
fine it 1 must confess completely puzzles 
me. . . . 96 

General Barker, acting head of COS- 
SAC in Morgan's absence, took up the 
problem with his staff in London and 
replied at length. He did not feel that 
General Marshall need be apprehensive 
about the degree of control he could 
exercise over the assaulting army. But 
the control should be that appropriate to 
a supreme commander, not the control 
normally exercised by a tactical head- 
quarters. General Barker wrote: 

I think it goes without saying that the as- 
sault must be directly commanded by an 
Army Commander. Furthermore, the fact 
that an Army Group Commander must per- 
force take over direct command of the oper- 
ation at a fairly early stage, say D plus 5 or 6 
or thereabouts, makes it essential that said 
Army Group Commander should be closely 
associated with the planning and execution 
of the assault, otherwise there is likely to be 
a break in continuity of command, or at least 
some friction in the change-over as well as in 
the planning for the buildup. After all, the 
SAC can and would intervene at any time 
the situation seems to warrant it. The Sa- 
lerno operation is a good example of the di- 

96 Ltr, Morgan to Barker, 28 Oct 43. Barker Papers. 



OVERLORD IN THE BALANCE (AUGUST-DECEMBER 1943) 



111 



rect intervention of a Commander-in-Chief 
when the operation gets sticky. He would, of 
course, have a senior staff officer from his 
staff on liaison with the Army Commander. 

You will recall that Alexander and Eisen- 
hower both intervened in Clark's battle at 
Salerno, and as the result, Eisenhower or- 
dered the whole weight of the Air and Naval 
forces to concentrate on the battlefield. In 
the assault stage of overlord, it is these two 
weapons, the Air and the Navy, that SAC 
would employ to influence the course of the 
battle. Our headquarters will have direct 
telephonic, telegraphic and radio contact 
with Army, Army Group and the Air and 
Naval Headquarters, as well as with our 
liaison officers at these headquarters. In con- 
sequence, the SAC w ill be in the closest touch 
with the battle and can intervene quickly 
should the necessity arise. 97 

General Morgan agreed and wrote that 
he would "make arrangements for [Gen- 
eral Marshall as SAC] to be able to par- 
ticipate directly in Bradley's battle when 
it takes place. What though the planning 
must have been through the other system, 
that is, through the 21 Army Group, I 
am myself satisfied that this is the prac- 
tical solution having in view the fact 
that the Commander himself will not be 
present throughout the whole proceed- 
ings." 98 

American concern with expanding the 
authority of SAC took another direction. 
In the same memorandum in which the 
Joint Chiefs criticized the COSSAC pro- 
posed chain of command, they recom- 
mended defining the supreme com- 
mander's sphere of command to include 
the whole of Germany for purposes of 
conducting air operations. 99 The British 
at once demurred, saying that the pro- 

97 Ltr, Barker to Morgan, 3 Nov 43. Barker Papers. 

98 Ltr, Morgan to Barker, 8 Nov 43. Barker Papers. 

99 CCS 304/4, 19 Oct 43. 



posal amounted to giving the supreme 
commander all responsibility for stra- 
tegic bombing. This responsibility, they 
felt, should remain with the Combined 
Chiefs of Staff. General Marshall ob- 
served that "operation pointblank [the 
strategic air offensive] is intended as a 
preparation for overlord and may now 
be extended to operations from Italy. 
Thus it is a part of overlord." 100 

Although there was no argument over 
SAC's right to control the strategic 
bomber forces once the invasion had 
begun, the British strenuously objected 
to turning over command before that 
date. The furthest they would go at the 
moment was to specify in the draft di- 
rective to the Commander-in-Chief, 
AEAF, that the strategic air forces would 
be "detailed from time to time by the 
Combined Chiefs of Staff to operate with 
all or part of their effort to meet the 
requirements of the Supreme Com- 
mander." 101 They believed that SAC 
control of the Eighth Air Force and RAF 
Bomber Command was unsound. Air 
operations were specialized; air channels 
had been organized through four years 
of war; air operations affected all enemy 
fronts; and, finally, the air offensive al- 
ready in progress was designed to estab- 
lish conditions for overlord. This sys- 
tem could not be improved on by putting 
SAC in command. 102 The Joint Chiefs 
could not accept the argument, What- 



100 CCS 124th Mtg, 22 Oct 43. 

101 CCS 304/7, 4 Nov 43. This is a "split" paper. 
The first five paragraphs of the draft directive in- 
closed were agreed on by U.S. and British planners. 
The final paragraphs, dealing with the control of the 
strategic air forces, were reported in two versions 
representing opposing U.S. and British views. 

i° 2 Cbl, Br COS to JSM, 10 Nov 43. SHAEF SGS 
file 322.011/2. 



112 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



ever the technical objections might be, 
they held it was unthinkable that the 
supreme commander of any operation 
should not have absolute command of all 
forces needed by him to carry out that 
operation. "A committee," said General 
Marshall, "cannot fight a battle." 103 

The upshot of the debate was a tem- 
porary deadlock. It was decided then to 
put the question aside until it became 
critical. At the moment it was more im- 
portant to issue a directive to the Com- 
mander-in-Chief, Allied Expeditionary 
Air Force, authorizing him to organize the 
U.S. and British tactical air forces into a 
single command under SAC. The essen- 
tial outlines of this command were agreed 
to by the Combined Chiefs of Staff, and, 
despite U.S. objections to issuing direc- 
tives to subordinate commanders, they 
were embodied in a directive to Air 
Marshal Leigh-Mallory early in Novem- 
ber. 104 The AEAF headquarters was 
established as of 15 November, to take 
immediate control of the RAF Tactical 
Air Force and the Air Defence of Great 
Britain. The date at which the Ninth 
Air Force would pass to AEAF command 
was tentatively set for 15 December. 105 

Designed first as an appendix to the 
directive to the supreme commander, the 
AEAF directive was issued separately as 
it became apparent that full agreement 

i°8 CCS 126th Mtg, 5 Nov 43. 

104 xhe directive was issued through COSSAC, sav- 
ing the letter of SAC's right to appoint his subordi- 
nates. 

105 COS (43) 717 (0) , Formation of an Allied Ex- 
peditionary Air Force, 17 Nov 43. Air Defence of 
Great Britain replaced Royal Air Force Fighter Com- 
mand. "Despatch by Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford 
Leigh-Mallory" (submitted to the Supreme Allied 
Commander in November 1944) , Fourth Supplement 
to The London Gazette No. 37838, 31 December 1946, 
pp. 37-38. 



on the definition of SAC's authority 
could not immediately be reached. Con- 
sideration of the latter problem, in fact, 
was deferred to January. 106 In the mean- 
time at the Cairo Conference in Decem- 
ber the supreme commander was at last 
appointed. General Eisenhower, then 
commander in chief in the Mediter- 
ranean, was notified of his appointment 
about the middle of December and ar- 
rived in England to take command the 
middle of January. It was another month 
before the formal directive from the 
Combined Chiefs was issued to him. But 
the debate over the directive after his 
appointment was mainly verbal. The few 
substantial issues at stake were settled by 
being dropped. In effect the whole direc- 
tive was trimmed down to what both 
sides could agree to and the settlement of 
such questions as the control of strategic 
air was left for later discussion in which 
the supreme commander's determination 
of his own requirements would be the 
decisive factor. 107 

The appointment of General Eisen- 
hower ended almost a year of uncertainty 
which kept many of the preparations for 
invasion in long suspense. When the 
question of selecting a commander for 
cross-Channel operations was broached 
at the Casablanca Conference, it was 
shelved on the grounds that it was un- 
necessary to appoint a commander so 
early in the proceeding. Informally it 
was agreed that the commander, when 
appointed, would be British. Casa- 
blanca's perspective, it will be remem- 
bered, was confined principally to 1943. 

106 After the paper referred to in note 101 (dtd 4 
Nov 43) , the next CCS memorandum on command 
(CCS 304/8) was dated 6 January 1944. 

107 For full text of this directive see below, App. B. 



OVERLORD IN THE BALANCE (AUGUST-DECEMBER 1943) 



113 



If a cross-Channel invasion had been at- 
tempted that year, the British would in- 
evitably have made by far the greater 
initial contributions of resources. It was 
on that basis, and in consideration of the 
fact that General Eisenhower was com- 
manding in the Mediterranean, that the 
agreement was made. COSSAC was given 
to understand immediately after Casa- 
blanca that the matter was settled. The 
Prime Minister informed General Sir 
Alan Brooke that he would be appointed 
supreme commander as soon as it seemed 
advisable to make a formal appoint- 
ment. 108 

These arrangements were much less 
settled than they seemed. Churchill, while 
agreeing to the choice of a British com- 
mander, formally enunciated the prin- 
ciple that the nation contributing the ma- 
jority of the forces to any combined enter- 
prise should command it. When it became 
apparent that no cross-Channel opera- 
tions would be launched during 1943 and 
that for the 1944 operation the United 
States would furnish the bulk of the 
troops and materiel, the Casablanca deci- 
sion on the high command was changed. 
As early as July 1942 the Prime Minister 
had suggested to President Roosevelt the 
appointment of General Marshall to 
command cross-Channel operations. 109 
Churchill apparently repeated the recom- 
mendations at Quebec a year later. 110 Al- 
though no agreement was reached, rumors 
of Marshall's appointment leaked to the 
press, and received increasing credence 
even from those officially concerned with 



108 Interv with Gen Ismay, cited n. 22; cf. Stimson 
and Bundy, On Active Service, p. 439. 

109 Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, p. 615. 

110 Stimson and Bundy, On Active Service, p. 439. 



overlord. 111 When President Roosevelt 
was asked by General Morgan in October 
for confirmation that General Marshall 
would be given the command, the Presi- 
dent replied only that he was still not 
sure. 112 

Behind the President's reluctance to ap- 
point General Marshall to the overlord 
command was the feeling that no one 
could satisfactorily replace him as Chief 
of Staff of the Army and member of the 
Combined Chiefs of Staff. 113 In particular 
it was felt that General Marshall had es- 
tablished a working relationship with 
Congress which would be jeopardized by 
bringing in a new man whom Congress 
did not know. There was also a very gen- 
eral sense in the American camp that a 
field command in one theater was not a 
big enough job for the man who for four 
years had occupied the top position in the 
U.S. Army and had taken a leading part 
in formulating strategy throughout the 
world. Partly in an effort to create a job 
suitable for their Chief of Staff, the Amer- 
icans at the Cairo Conference suggested 
combining the European and Mediterra- 
nean theaters under a single commander 
who would have the direction of all op- 
erations in Europe. 114 The suggestion 

111 Ltr, Col Edwards (OPD) to Gen Edwards 
(CofS ETOUSA) , 5 Sep 43. Pre-Inv files, Devers 
Correspondence. Colonel Edwards wrote: "The news- 
papers have just announced and rather firmly, that 
SAC is to be Gen. Marshall and suggest that Gen. 
Eisenhower may be C/S [Chief of Staff of the Army]. 
This should clear the atmosphere." 

112 Interv with Gen Ismay, cited n. 22. 

113 See the account in Katherine T. Marshall, To- 
gether: Annals of an Army Wife (Atlanta, 1946) , pp. 
69ff. 

114 CCS 408, Command of British and U.S. Forces 
Operating Against Germany, 25 Nov 43; CCS 126th 
Mtg, 5 Nov 43. During a meeting with the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff on shipboard on the way to Cairo, 
President Roosevelt said that it was his idea "that 



114 



CROSS CHANNEL ATTACK 



stemmed also from American conviction 
that a single command over related oper- 
ations was more efficient than co-opera- 
tion between co-ordinate commanders. It 
was turned down by the British on the 
grounds that a single field command over 
such disparate operations was unfeasible 
and that the proposal therefore would 
only mean the creation of an unnecessary 
intermediary between the Combined 
Chiefs of Staff and the theater command- 
ers. 115 

Shortly after the British had refused to 
entertain the idea of amalgamating the 
Mediterranean and European commands, 
President Roosevelt decided that General 
Marshall should remain at his post as 
Chief of Staff, and that General Eisen- 
hower, the next logical choice, should 
take command of overlord. 

While principles were being discussed 
on the highest levels, the organization in 
the theater of various headquarters that 
would assume control of the operation 
proceeded. In the early summer the Brit- 
ish had constructed the skeleton of their 
tactical command for overlord, complete 
with the creation of headquarters of the 
Second British Army, the First Canadian 
Army, and 21 Army Group. At that time 
the highest U.S. ground force command 
in the United Kingdom was still V Corps. 
In May, General Devers strongly urged 
the War Department to establish a U.S. 
army headquarters. 116 It was required to 
parallel British organization, to "initiate 



Marshall should be commander-in-chief against 
Germany commanding all British, U.S., French and 
Italian troops." JCS Mtg, 15 Nov 43. Dep C/S file 
110.00 A 48.41 dr 155. 
115 CCS 408/1, 26 Nov 43. 

116 Ltrs, Devers to Marshall, 18 and 19 May 43. 
Pre-Inv files, Devers Correspondence. 



actual planning for the 1944 operation," 
and finally as part of the scheme to make 
the Germans believe that an attack across 
the Channel would be made in 1943. Two 
months later General Devers further 
recommended that a skeleton head- 
quarters for a U.S. army group also be 
sent to England. 117 

Despite this urging, which was rein- 
forced by General Morgan, the War De- 
partment did not become convinced of 
the necessity for an immediate appoint- 
ment of an army commander until the 
end of August 1943, and insisted then on 
still further delay in naming an army 
group commander. 118 The choice of an 
army commander was unanimous: he was 
to be Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, Ameri- 
can commander in the battle of Tunisia. 119 
His release from the command of II Corps 
then in Sicily was arranged during the last 
week in August, and effected on 7 Sep- 
tember. After conferences in Washington, 
Bradley arrived in the United Kingdom 
in October. On the 20th of that month the 
headquarters of the First U. S. Army was 
at last opened. The headquarters had 
been activated in the United States dur- 
ing September with cadre from the East- 
ern Defense Command. 120 

Army group headquarters was to be al- 
lowed to develop gradually out of the 
theater as the need for it grew. At the time 
that General Marshall arranged for the 
appointment of General Bradley as army 



117 Ltr, Devers to Marshall, 6 Jul 43. Pre-Inv files, 
Devers Correspondence. 

118 Ltr, Barker to Devers, 30 Aug 43. Pre-Inv files, 
Devers Correspondence. 

119 For Eisenhower's appraisal of Bradley's qualifi- 
cations, see Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, p. 215. 

120 See Cbls, Marshall to Eisenhower, No. 5968, 25 
Aug 43; No. 6595, 1 Sep 43; No. 6904, 4 Sep 43. WD 
Cable log. 



OVERLORD IN THE BALANCE (AUGUST-DECEMBER 1943) 



115 



commander he was still not ready to name 
a commander for army group. General 
Devers then proposed that a single su- 
perior U.S. headquarters, a U.S. GHQ, 
be established to direct both operations 
and administration, following the prece- 
dent of World War I. 121 Devers' proposed 
GHQ was to consist of a field headquar- 
ters and a rear echelon to handle theater 
functions. It was to be formed gradually 
by doubling the staff sections of ETOUSA 
to constitute forward and rear compo- 
nents. Once the field headquarters moved 
to the Continent, the theater functions 
might be redefined to permit, presum- 
ably, a greater independence of opera- 
tional and administrative commands. 

The Devers proposal did not suit Gen- 
eral Marshall, who believed that a maxi- 
mum separation of operational and ad- 
ministrative functions was desirable. 122 
On 18 September the War Department 
agreed in principle to the establishment 
of a U. S. army group headquarters, and 
planning for it was delegated to General 
Bradley in addition to his duties as army 
commander. 123 So strongly did General 
Marshall feel that the new headquarters 
should not be burdened with theater re- 
sponsibilities that he recommended to 
General Devers a physical separation of 
army group from ETOUSA. "I desire that 
the organization of the Army Group 
Headquarters be initially controlled di- 
rectly by Bradley under your supervision 
and that it not be merely an offshoot, or 



121 Cbl, Devers to Marshall, W4421, 13 Sep 43. WD 
Cable log. 

122 Marshall's views on command in Europe are 
stated in Cbl, Marshall to Devers, R3267, 18 Sep 43; 
Dir to Devers, 24 Sep 43. OPD Misc Exec office file. 

123 Cbl, AGWAR to ETOUSA, 18 Sep 43. Pre-Inv 
files, Devers Correspondence. 



appurtenance to ETO Headquarters." 124 
First U. S. Army Group (FUSAG) was 
activated on 16 October. Its first assigned 
task was operational planning under the 
direction of ETOUSA. The operational 
missions of both FUSAG and First Army 
were to be assigned later by COSSAC. By 
this time, however, it had already been 
decided that First U. S. Army would com- 
mand at least all American troops in the 
assault and that 21 Army Group, chiefly 
because it was early on the scene and had 
participated in COSSAC planning, would 
have over-all ground command in the as- 
sault and early build-up phases. In effect, 
those decisions meant that the role of 
FUSAG would be to take over command 
of U. S. troops when two American armies 
had become operational on the Continent, 
that is to say, after the establishment of 
the initial lodgment area. 

It does not appear that the decision 
giving initial ground command to 21 
Army Group was ever formally confirmed 
by the Combined Chiefs of Staff. When 
General Morgan returned to London in 
November after more than a month's stay 
in Washington, he carried back the in- 
structions and full confidence of General 
Marshall. "He knows exactly what I 
want," General Marshall told General 
Devers in asking the latter for full co-op- 
eration with COSSAC. 125 It was presum- 
ably in the light of General Marshall's in- 
structions that General Morgan, shortly 
after his return, began to draft a directive 
to the Commander-in-Chief, 21 Army 
Group, which finally fixed the chain of 
command for overlord. 



i 2 * Ltr, Marshall to Devers 24 Sep 43. OPD file ABC 
381 (22-1-43) sec. 1. 

125 Cbl, Marshall to Devers, R5583, 11 Nov 43. WD 
Cable log. 



116 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



That directive, issued on 29 November, 
significantly under the letterhead of "Su- 
preme Allied Headquarters," told the 21 
Army Group commander that he would 
be "jointly responsible with the Allied 
Naval Commander-in-Chief and the Air 
Commander-in-Chief, Allied Expedition- 
ary Air Force, for the planning of the op- 
eration, and, when so ordered, for its exe- 
cution until such time as the Supreme 
Allied Commander allocates an area of re- 
sponsibility to the Commanding General, 
First Army Group." He was also told that 
operations in the assault phase would be 
carried out by U. S. and British corps 
under "the unified command of the Com- 
manding General, First (US) Army," and 
that "the Commanding General, First 
(US) Army . . . [would] remain in im- 
mediate control of land operations until 
such time as the forces landed warrant, in 
your opinion, the introduction of a sec- 
ond army headquarters ... to take over 
a portion of the front." 126 

It will be noted that this directive made 
the commander of 21 Army Group an 
over-all ground commander in the initial 
phases co-ordinate in authority to the air 
and naval commanders in chief, but it 
specifically limited his tenure to the first 
part of the operation. In the earliest at- 
tempts at devising a formula for unified 
combined command, logic and— it might 
be added— the natural rivalry among the 
services for coequal dignity had seemed 
to demand separate commanders in chief 
under the supreme commander for all 
three services, Air Force, Navy, and Army. 
The Casablanca declaration on command 
had provided for three "assistant" su- 
preme commanders for each of the serv- 

126 Ltr, COSSAC to CinC 21 A Gp, Operation 
'overlord/ 29 Nov 43, COSSAC (43) 76. 



ices. Mediterranean operations had in ef- 
fect practiced the doctrine of three co- 
equal commanders, although the opera- 
tions themselves were small enough so 
that the "ground commander" was never 
more than the equivalent of an army 
group commander. The issue of a ground 
commander for overlord was raised in 
intramural discussions in the Operations 
Division of the War Department in Sep- 
tember and came before the Joint Chiefs, 
but was shelved there. The concept of a 
ground commander seemed objectionable 
on practical grounds. Since the supreme 
commander would be American, it was 
considered in September that the ground 
commander, if there was one, would also 
have to be American. But, as one officer 
in OPD pointed out, the "ruling factor" 
determining in practice the nationality 
of the ground commander would be the 
availability of a suitable individual to fill 
the position. He observed further that no 
U. S. commander had the battle experi- 
ence and reputation to challenge the 
qualifications of the British generals, 
Montgomery and Alexander, for the job. 
The conclusion was obvious: it would be 
impolitic of the Americans to suggest the 
creation of the job. 127 

The command organization for over- 
lord, which was at last agreed on in the 
closing months of the year, was retained 
in principle after the assault was broad- 
ened from a three- to a five-division front. 
The successive command already estab- 
lished was then phased forward. Two 
armies (U. S. and British) were then to 
make the assault under the direct com- 
mand of 21 Army Group. General Mont- 
gomery, commander of the army group, 

127 Ltr, Col Edwards (OPD) to Gen Edwards, 7 
Sep 43. Pre-Inv files, Devers Correspondence. 




GENERAL MONTGOMERY, ground commander of the Allied assault on the 
Normandy beaches. 



118 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



was given a de facto ground command for 
the assault phase— the same kind of uni- 
fied command that under the COSSAC 
plan would have been exercised by First 
Army. 128 

The Cairo-Tehran Conferences 

In late October 1943, the Combined 
Chiefs of Staff began looking forward to 
their next staff conference and the issues 
which they expected to be raised there. 
Most of the indications were that the 
Quebec compromises would be reopened 
and the debate would go on as before. 

In proposing an agenda for the confer- 
ence, the British Chiefs of Staff empha- 
sized their opinion that the most impor- 
tant point for discussion would be a "gen- 
eral review of our future strategy in the 
light of the events which have taken place 
since quadrant." 120 That this meant a 
further British attempt to shift additional 
Allied weight to the Mediterranean had 
already become clear through an ex- 
change of views on the disappointingly 
slow progress in Italy. 

On 24 October, General Eisenhower 
sent a long cable to the Combined Chiefs 
of Staff outlining the situation in Italy. 130 
It was, he said, much changed since the 
Salerno landings, and the change was seri- 
ously and dangerously to the disadvantage 
of the Allies. At the moment the Allies 

128 Montgomery, however, never received the for- 
mal designation of ground commander, and there 
actually remained some confusion, at least on his 
part, as to the duration of his command over ground 
forces on the Continent. The ground commander 
problem will be fully discussed by F. C. Pogue in 
The Supreme Command, a volume under prepara- 
tion in this series. 

1 29 CCS 125th Mtg, 29 Oct 43. 

is° Cbl, Eisenhower to CCS, NAF 486, 24 Oct 43. 
WD Cable log. 



had eleven divisions in the peninsula. 
They were opposed by nine German divi- 
sions, which, it was estimated, could be 
reinforced by fifteen more that were lo- 
cated to the north. At the current rate of 
build-up the Allies would have only six- 
teen to seventeen divisions by the end of 
January. There was thus a real possi- 
bility that the Allies might lose the criti- 
cal build-up race and be not only stopped 
but defeated. What General Eisenhower 
feared most of all, however, was that, al- 
though he might be able to batter his way 
up the peninsula to Rome, his armies 
would arrive on their objective too weak 
to hold it. He could not stand south of 
Rome because it was important to take 
the capital as a symbol of victory in Italy, 
to capture the airfields north of it, and 
above all to retain the the initiative at 
least until after overlord. Otherwise, the 
Germans would be free to withdraw divi- 
sions from Italy to oppose the Normandy 
landings and the main purpose of the 
Mediterranean campaign would be com- 
promised. General Eisenhower concluded 
that he must keep pushing north; to do 
so without fatally exhausting his armies 
he needed landing craft to take advantage 
"of the enemy's inherent weakness," the 
exposure of his flanks to amphibious en- 
velopment. 

After receiving Eisenhower's report, 
the British Chiefs of Staff urgently cabled 
Washington asking that General Eisen- 
hower be backed to the full. Specifically 
they wanted delay in the agreed schedules 
for transferring landing craft from the 
Mediterranean to overlord. They wanted 
this "even if the 'overlord' programme is 
delayed." 131 For the moment the Joint 

131 CCS 379, Operations in the Mediterranean, 26 
Oct 43. 



OVERLORD IN THE BALANCE (AUGUST-DECEMBER 1943) 



119 



Chiefs simply replied that the British 
exaggerated the seriousness of the Italian 
situation and reminded them of their 
agreement to consider that overlord and 
not the Italian battle was the "primary 
ground and air effort against Ger- 
many." 132 But it was clear that strategy 
was on the block again. Again a relatively 
minor practical decision, this time involv- 
ing the convoy schedules for moving land- 
ing craft, raised the large issue of how the 
war in Europe was to be fought. 

The landing craft problem was tempo- 
rarily settled by an agreement that Gen- 
eral Eisenhower might retain, until 15 
December, sixty LST's scheduled for 
transfer to the United Kingdom a month 
earlier. 133 But no one doubted that the 
stopgap settlement was as unreliable as a 
cork in a volcano. In fact, the cable to 
General Eisenhower conveying the Com- 
bined Chiefs' decision 134 had no sooner 
been drafted than the British representa- 
tives began to argue that General Eisen- 
hower had evidently not asked for enough 
resources, that he should be provided 
with at least a two-divisional amphibious 
lift even though he had requested only 
one. 135 

There were other straws in the wind 
that pointed to the resumption of the de- 
bate on European strategy. Immediately 
after the surrender of Italy in September 
1943, the British had attempted to pluck 
off the Dodecanese Islands at the entrance 
to the Aegean Sea. They thought that the 



132 CCS 379/1, 29 Oct 43. 

133 CCS 379/5, 4 Nov 43. At the Cairo Conference, 
the date for transfer of the craft was extended to 15 
January 1944. CCS 132d Mtg, 30 Nov 43; Cbl, CCS 
to Eisenhower, FAN 281, 1 Dec 43. WD Cable log. 

134 Cbl, CCS to Eisenhower, FAN 271, 5 Nov 43. 
WD Cable log. 

135 CCS 126th Mtg, 5 Nov 43. 



islands would fall readily into the vacuum 
of the general Italian collapse. German 
reaction, however, was unexpectedly 
swift and determined, and Italian assist- 
ance to the British, on the other hand, 
was of even less value than anticipated. 
As a result, within a few weeks the British 
had been ejected from their bridgeheads 
with a loss later estimated by the Prime 
Minister at 5,000 first-class troops. 136 Be- 
fore this happened, in late September, the 
commanding generals of the Middle East 
and Mediterranean theaters had fully ex- 
amined the possibilities of reinforcing the 
Aegean attack and saving the forces al- 
ready committed there. They concluded 
that the only operation which could re- 
establish the Allied position was the cap- 
ture of Rhodes. In view of heavy German 
air activity and the enemy disposition to 
resist strongly in the area, this operation 
was envisaged as requiring a very con- 
siderable contribution of resources from 
the Mediterranean which could be taken 
only from the Italian campaign. General 
Eisenhower, further, saw in an Aegean of- 
fensive a constant and probably mount- 
ing drain on Mediterranean resources 
which would seriously affect his capacity 
to prosecute the war in Italy. The other 
commanders concerned agreed and it was 
decided to postpone the proposed inva- 
sion of Rhodes. At the moment the Com- 
bined Chiefs did no more than take note 
of these decisions. 137 Since the operation 
was "postponed," however, and not can- 
celed, it could be expected to come up 
again, particularly since the Prime Minis- 



136 2d Plenary Mtg at Cairo, 24 Nov 43. OPD files, 
Min of sextant Conf. 

137 See CCS series 365, Future Operations in the 
Eastern Mediterranean. 



120 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



ter had always taken a special interest in 
the eastern Mediterranean. 

One of the arguments for pushing oper- 
ations in the eastern Mediterranean was 
that success in that area might persuade 
Turkey to enter the war on the side of the 
Allies. The project of using diplomatic 
pressure on Turkey to bring her into the 
war had been approved in principle by 
the Combined Chiefs at Casablanca. 138 
Since that time various diplomatic over- 
tures had been made through the British. 
Although Turkey remained coy in the 
face of both implied threats and open 
blandishments— threats that without ac- 
tive participation in the struggle against 
the Axis Turkey's position might be 
weak at the peace table, and direct offers 
of military assistance if she did come in— 
it still seemed possible at the end of 1943 
that an alliance with Turkey might be 
achieved. The project was given impetus 
by reports that the Soviet Union was es- 
pecially interested in getting direct and 
immediate support from the Mediter- 
ranean area so as to draw off more Ger- 
man strength from the main Eastern 
Front. 139 

There were thus three post-Quebec de- 
velopments that would tend to supply 
fresh fuel for the British argument for 
heavier Mediterranean commitments. To 
these a fourth consideration, indirect and 
intangible, but nevertheless important, 
may be added. Red Army successes in the 
1943 summer offensive had been impres- 
sive. The German armies were backed up 
to the line of the Dnepr. The Russians 
did not pause. Bridgeheads were thrown 
across the river. The Germans fought to 

" 8 See above, Ch. I. 

139 Cbl, Deane to JCS, No. 51, 9 Nov 43. WD Cable 
log- 



avoid annihilation on various parts of the 
front and in the process fell back as much 
as a hundred miles in the south. By No- 
vember the main German armies were 
split by the Pripet Marshes; Kiev had 
fallen; the forces in the Ukraine were 
threatened with encirclement; the Crimea 
was cut off. Although the German armies 
gave no sign of collapse, they were fight- 
ing to escape destruction and steadily re- 
treating. It seemed impossible that they 
could any longer hope for victory. In the 
meantime the tempo of the Allied air of- 
fensive from Great Britain had stepped 
up. There were increasing reports of 
fading morale among enemy prisoners, 
partly induced, it was thought, by letters 
from home describing the devastation 
rained by Allied planes on German cities. 
In London hopes were raised that enemy 
disintegration was near, that the closing 
months of 1918 were about to be re- 
enacted. There was some feeling that plan 
rankin (the plan for return to the Con- 
tinent in case of enemy collapse) was 
more likely to be executed than over- 
lord. 140 If collapse were, in truth, so near, 
then the strategy of throwing everything 
into the immediate battle in the Medi- 
terranean and so avoiding, perhaps, the 
necessity of ever having to strike the big 
costly cross-Channel blow took on a new 
plausibility. 

In the continuing policy discussions 
during the weeks before the Cairo Con- 
ference the Joint Chiefs of Staff found 
only one new consideration important 
enough to warrant a possible re-examina- 
tion of their positive commitment to the 
overlord concept: that was the sugges- 

140 Ltr, Barker to Morgan, 20 Oct 43. Barker Papers; 
JCS 533/7, Recommended Line of Action at Next 
U.S.-British Staff Conference, 18 Nov 43. 



OVERLORD IN THE BALANCE (AUGUST-DECEMBER 1943) 



121 



tion of a Soviet preference for immediate 
support via the Mediterranean over the 
stronger but delayed attack on northwest 
Europe. 141 If the Russians were actually 
to urge accelerated operations in the 
Mediterranean, it would be a complete 
reversal of their previous stand that they 
wanted a second front, that they wanted 
it in northwest Europe, and that they did 
not consider Allied attacks in the Medi- 
terranean as a substitute. Yet in Novem- 
ber it seemed quite possible that the So- 
viet Union might make just this reversal. 
The circumstances are worth examining 
in some detail. 

In October, U.S. and British military 
and diplomatic representatives met with 
the Russians in Moscow to discuss various 
problems of military collaboration. 142 
Marshal K. E. Voroshilov put before the 
conferees three Soviet proposals for has- 
tening the successful conclusion of the 
war: (1) preparations by the United 
States and Great Britain during 1943 to 
insure an invasion of northern France; 

(2) inducements to Turkey to enter the 
war on the side of the United Nations; 

(3) inducements to Sweden to permit the 
use of air bases for the war against Ger- 
many. In answer to the first proposal Maj. 
Gen. John Russell Deane and General 
Ismay outlined the conclusions of the 
Quebec Conference and reassured the 
Soviets that the decision to mount over- 
lord was firm. General Deane found it 



141 Min of Mtg, Roosevelt, Hopkins, and JCS, 19 
Nov 43, cited n. 27. Cf. below, n. 144. 

142 The principal U.S. representatives were Secre- 
tary of State Cordell Hull, Ambassador W. Averell 
Harriman, and Maj. Gen. John R. Deane. Deane, 
following the conference, was to establish a U.S. 
military mission to the Soviet Union. The British 
were represented by Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden 
and Gen. Sir Hastings Ismay. 



worth remarking that these assurances 
were accepted by the Russians and that 
the Russians did not press to have the 
target date on overlord put forward. 
Still more remarkable to General Deane 
was their calm acceptance of statements 
that overlord might have to be de- 
layed. Reporting on this to the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff, General Deane said that 
it opened up the possibility that the 
USSR's attitude on a second front in the 
west had been altered by recent successes 
of the Red Army, that the Russians were 
now laying greater stress on immediate 
assistance. General Deane's impression 
was strengthened when Molotov com- 
plained that Allied pressure in Italy had 
been insufficient to prevent the Germans 
from moving divisions to the Eastern 
Front. Soviet leaders could not under- 
stand why two nations of the combined 
resources of the United States and Great 
Britain could not tie up more than a 
handful of enemy forces. 143 

General Deane was convinced by all 
these signs that the Russians were work- 
ing around to a demand that American 
and British armies intensify the campaign 
in Italy or perhaps launch an invasion of 
the Balkans. He cabled the Joint Chiefs 
of Staff on 9 November to be prepared 
for such a demand at the Tehran Con- 
ference. He told them that it was quite 
likely that Russian enthusiasm for a 
cross-Channel attack had cooled. He be- 
lieved the Red Army was now confident 

143 General Deane reported in detail to the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff in a series of cables in October and 
November 1943. See esp., Cbls No. 2, 19 Oct; No. 4, 21 
Oct; No. 28, 29 Oct; No. 34, 31 Oct; No. 47, 6 Nov; 
No. 51, 9 Nov. WD Cable log. The story of the con- 
ference is briefly but accurately told in Deane's book: 
John R. Deane, The Strange Alliance (New York, 
1947) , pp. 16ff., 35. 



122 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



of its ability to move into Berlin without 
benefit of the squeeze from the west. 

The prospects of mounting overlord 
as planned could not have seemed very 
bright to the Joint Chiefs of Staff as they 
traveled to Cairo for the first conversa- 
tions with the British before the meeting 
with the Russians. 144 Shortly after their 
arrival the Joint Chiefs asked Ambassa- 
dor John G. Winant for his impressions of 
British thinking so that they might be 
prepared for the inevitable debate. 145 Mr. 
Winant began by saying that "he thought 
the British had no idea of abandoning . . . 
[overlord] but that they did oppose a 
fixed date for it." The British, he said, 
were anxious to mount the operation at 
the right "psychological moment" and 
they didn't think that moment could be 
predicted so far ahead of time. British de- 
feat in the Dodecanese had much upset 
the Prime Minister and had confirmed 
him in the opinion that the Germans were 
still superior to both Great Britain and 
the United States on land. British military 
men, Ambassador Winant added, felt that 
the Prime Minister's views on the Dodec- 
anese defeat were "considerably out of 
perspective," but they agreed in fearing 
the German capacity to build up rapidly 
on the ground to oppose the overlord 
landings, despite Allied superiority in the 
air. In short, he believed, the British still 
doubted that the Allies could attack suc- 
cessfully at a fixed date which was de- 

144 See Mtg, Roosevelt, Hopkins, and JCS, 19 Nov 
43, cited n. 27. At that meeting Marshall expressed 
the opinion that the British might like to "ditch" 
overlord now in order to go into the Balkans. Roose- 
velt thought the Russians might press for an attack 
up the Adriatic to the Danube to tie up with Russian 
forces entering Romania. 

146 JCS 127th Mtg, 22 Nov 43. 



pendent only on the state of Allied prep- 
arations; they still wanted to wait for a 
moment of German weakness. 146 

Winant's interpretation of British views 
was confirmed in the course of the con- 
ference. Early in the proceedings the 
Prime Minister emphasized the British 
commitment to overlord but begged for 
some "elasticity" in order to expedite 
Mediterranean operations. 147 The neces- 
sary elasticity he thought could be 
achieved by delaying overlord about five 
or six weeks. Landing craft destined for 
transfer from the Mediterranean to the 
United Kingdom could be held in the 
Mediterranean long enough to carry out 
amphibious assaults behind the German 
lines in Italy and undertake the invasion 
of Rhodes. 

The Prime Minister's views were fur- 
ther elaborated and formally presented 
by the British Chiefs of Staff the follow- 
ing day. 148 They proposed the following 
actions: push the offensive in Italy until 
the Pisa-Rimini line was reached, nour- 
ish guerrilla movements in Yugoslavia, 
Greece, and Albania, induce Turkey to 
enter the war, open the Dardanelles sup- 
ply route to the Soviet Union, and pro- 
mote chaos in the Balkans. They added 
that, if these actions meant delaying over- 
lord, then that delay should be accepted. 

These proposals, counter to U.S. strat- 
egy built around the absolute priority of 
overlord, should have called forth a de- 
bate at least as vigorous as that at Que- 
bec. Actually, the Joint Chiefs of Staff 
promptly accepted the British program as 

146 /bid. 

147 2d Plenary Mtg, 24 Nov 43. 

148 CCS 409, "Overlord" and the Mediterranean, 25 
Nov 43. 



OVERLORD IN THE BALANCE (AUGUST-DECEMBER 1943) 



123 



a basis for discussion at the Tehran Con- 
ference and afterward. The Joint Chiefs' 
acquiescence did not mean that they had 
relaxed their conviction of the transcend- 
ing importance of overlord. In accepting 
British proposals as a basis for discussion 
with the Russians, they were underlining 
the fact that final decision had to take 
into account Soviet views. They did not 
thereby agree to argue for the British 
stand; they intended only to present it in 
order to elicit Soviet reaction. 149 

There the matter rested when the pre- 
liminary Cairo conferences broke up and 
the Combined Chiefs of Staff traveled to 
Tehran for the central and critical meet- 
ing with the Russians. The keynote of the 
Tehran meetings was set by the first 
plenary session on 28 November 1943 be- 
tween President Roosevelt, Prime Minis- 
ter Churchill, and Marshal Stalin. 150 Be- 
cause the main object of the Tehran Con- 
ference was to get the Soviet views on 
strategy as a basis for co-ordinating United 
Nations' policy, it was Marshal Stalin who 
at that first meeting called the tune. He 
wasted no time making clear the Russian 
view. After listening to some preliminary 
oratory by the President and Prime Min- 
ister, he cut short his own introductory re- 
marks with a blunt "Now let us get down 
to business." Within a few minutes he 
announced all the major elements of 
USSR strategy as it affected the Western 

149 CCS 131st Mtg, 26 Nov 43. 

150 This and the following narrative of the Tehran 
(eureka) Conference are from the official U.S. min- 
utes of the meeting, bound with the minutes of the 
Cairo (sextant) Conference. OPD files. The records 
kept by the U.S. and British secretaries of the plenary 
political-military meetings at Tehran were not after- 
ward co-ordinated. For purposes of the discussion 
here, however, the discrepancies are unimportant and 
the U.S. minutes have been used throughout. 



Powers. He declared first that, as soon as 
Germany had been defeated, the Soviet 
Union would join with the United States 
and Great Britain in the offensive against 
Japan. Announced casually as though it 
were a point well understood, this was ac- 
tually his first official assurance of Russian 
intentions in the Pacific, and it had, as 
will be seen, profound effect on Anglo- 
American strategy. Stalin then took up 
the Italian front. Allied victories there, he 
thought, had been important, but "they 
are of no further great importance as re- 
gards the defeat of Germany." The USSR, 
he continued, believed that the most suit- 
able point of attack against Germany was 
northwest France. Thus in a few sentences 
he scouted General Deane's prognostica- 
tions of a change in the Soviet attitude. 
The Americans were pleased, if somewhat 
surprised. 

The Prime Minister wanted to know 
whether operations in the eastern Medi- 
terranean to take some weight immedi- 
ately off the USSR would not be accept- 
able even though they might mean a delay 
of a month or two in mounting overlord. 
Stalin replied that he did not consider it 
worth while to scatter British and U.S. 
forces. On the other hand he was very 
much interested in the suggestion made 
by both the President and Mr. Churchill 
that an invasion of southern France was 
being considered as a diversion for over- 
lord. He did not look on it exactly as a 
diversion. Simultaneous attacks from the 
northwest and south appealed to him as 
a single pincer attack the pattern of which 
was familiar from many Red Army vic- 
tories. 

Stalin's interest in an assault on south- 
ern France caught the U.S. and British 




TEHRAN CONFERENCE. Left to right: Marshal Stalin, President Roosevelt, 
and Prime Minister Churchill. 



OVERLORD IN THE BALANCE (AUGUST-DECEMBER 1943) 



125 



delegations unprepared. 151 The President 
and Prime Minister told Stalin that no de- 
tailed examination of the project had yet 
been made, but that their staffs would 
study it. It was a curious approach, pos- 
sibly calculated to avoid making any firm 
commitment. But it ignored a large 
amount of quite detailed planning work 
already done for the operation. It ignored 
General Eisenhower's recommendations 
made to the Combined Chiefs of Staff on 
29 October, opposing the operation in 
view of inadequate resources. 152 Most im- 
portant of all it ignored the fact that the 
bulk of the planning staffs had been left 
in Cairo. The only material on hand at 
Tehran to "start" the study was a copy of 
the 9 August outline plan which was very 
much out of date. 153 It was on the basis 
of this old plan that the skeleton planning 
staff at Tehran drew up a draft memo- 
randum for the President's considera- 
tion. Following the August plan, the 
memorandum recommended a two-divi- 
sion assault with a build-up to ten divi- 
sions. There was, however, no reliable in- 
formation as to the resources likely to be 
available. On the critical matter of land- 
ing craft supplies, the memorandum was 
necessarily vague; its general conclusion 
was that there probably would be enough 
craft "to move two assault divisions by 
short haul from Corsica and Sardinia to 



151 This can readily be deduced from the records 
and was specifically stated by Colonel (now Brig. 
Gen.) Bessel in conversation with the author, 5 
March 1947. It is further confirmed by statements of 
General Ismay to Dr. F. C. Pogue, in the interview 
cited above, note 22. 

152 Cbl, Eisenhower to CCS, NAF 492, 29 Oct 43. 
WD Cable log. 

153 JPS 249, Plan for Invasion of Southern France, 
9 Aug 43. 



Southern France under favorable weather 
conditions. . . ." 154 

On the basis of this study and under 
considerable urging by Marshal Stalin, 
the Americans and British before leaving 
Tehran committed themselves to mount- 
ing overlord with a supporting opera- 
tion against the south of France during 
May 1 944. 1 1 was clear that Marshal Stalin 
considered the two operations as a single, 
inseparable military undertaking. 

This was the Soviet view of what Anglo- 
American armies should do to hasten the 
end of the war in Europe. The view was 
hammered in during the conference, as in 
every meeting the Soviet representatives, 
abetted by the Americans, sought to pin 
down the most unequivocal possible 
agreement on overlord. 155 All other 
operations in the Mediterranean Stalin 
waved aside as diversion. "He had no in- 
terest in any . . . [Mediterranean] opera- 
tions other than those into Southern 
France." 156 He admitted the desirability 
of getting Turkey into the war, but 
doubted that it could be done. In any case 
he felt that Turkey's participation was a 
comparatively unimportant matter. The 
important point was that he did not wish 
the Western Allies to contemplate any di- 
version whatsoever from overlord, over- 
lord was the main question, not Turkey 
or Rhod cs or the Balkans. To make sure 
that there would be no wavering in the 
preparations for overlord. Marshal Stalin 

154 Unnumbered Memo, Operation Against South- 
ern France, 29 Nov 43. OPD file ABC 384 Europe (5 
Aug 43) sec. 9a. 

155 It is clear that the Soviet views had force in the 
conference because they were also American views. 
For a plausible analysis of President Roosevelt's role 
at Tehran see Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, pp. 
789ff. 

i5o pi enar y Mtg, 29 Nov 43. Statement not reported 
in British minutes. 



126 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



urged that a supreme commander be ap- 
pointed at once. He felt that the operation 
could not progress until someone had 
clear and single responsibility for it. Both 
Stalin and Churchill emphasized that the 
choice was the President's to make; all 
agreed that the appointment should be 
settled within the next fortnight. 

The air was cleared when the Ameri- 
cans and British gathered again at Cairo. 
The question of postponing overlord in 
favor of Mediterranean diversions was 
scotched at last. The one big problem 
that remained alive and would grow 
from now on more robust and obstrep- 
erous was how to carry out the commit- 
ment to invade southern France (Oper- 
ation anvil) at the same time as over- 
lord. In agreeing to anvil, the Prime 
Minister had stipulated that the strength 
of the assault be not less than the two di- 
visions which the Tehran staff had indi- 
cated were feasible. But back in Cairo the 
Combined Planners looked over the land- 
ing craft figures and reported that there 
was actually enough lift for only one di- 
vision in the assault and two-thirds of a 
division in the immediate follow-up. Esti- 
mating that a two-division assault would 
require a simultaneous lift for 45,500 men 
and 7,740 vehicles, planners calculated a 
probable shortage of lift for 6,500 men 
and 3,200 vehicles. That deficit might be 
made good, they reasoned, by diverting 
from the Pacific one month's allocation of 
landing craft— or a total of 26 LST's and 
26 LCT's— and then taking 5 LCT's from 
overlord. With reference to the latter 
recommendation, the planners noted that 
overlord was already getting 24 more 
LCT's than had been counted on at the 
Quebec Conference and that therefore 
the diversion of these five craft was "not 



materially at the expense of that opera- 
tion." The diversion of a month's supply 
of craft from the Pacific would probably 
force the postponement of an operation 
planned against Truk, and they suggested 
that, if that operation could not be de- 
layed, then it would be necessary to make 
up the deficit for it by transferring craft 
from the South Pacific. 157 

Here was the sign of things to come. 
The "numbers racket" of shuffling alloca- 
tions of landing craft around the globe, a 
half dozen here, a half dozen there, had 
begun and it would not end until late in 
1944. 

One possible source for more landing 
craft was the cancellation of a proposed 
amphibious assault (buccaneer) against 
the Andaman Islands, in connection with 
operations to open the Burma Road. The 
British, who had always felt that offensive 
action against Japan could wait until after 
the defeat of Germany, now took the 
initiative in urging cancellation. "It ap- 
peared," said Air Marshal Portal, "that 
in order to carry out a successful opera- 
tion in the South of France, other opera- 
tions would have to suffer." 158 Specifi- 
cally, he thought, the operation that 
should suffer was buccaneer. The Joint 
Chiefs of Staff were opposed at first, but 
after consultation with the President they 
finally agreed to accept a smaller amphibi- 
ous assault requiring not more than half 
the lift. The surplus craft could thus be 
diverted to Europe. 159 



157 CCS 424, Amphibious Operations Against the 
South of France, 5 Dec 43. 

1 58 CCS 133d Mtg, 3 Dec 43. 

159 This decision and its impact on strategy in 
Burma as well as on U.S.-China relations will be dis- 
cussed in full by C. F. Romanus and R. Sunderland 
in Command Problems, 1940-1944, a volume under 
preparation in this series. 



OVERLORD IN THE BALANCE (AUGUST-DECEMBER 1943) 



127 



In the course of the discussion Admiral 
King expressed alarm over the tendency 
to regard the Pacific area as a pool of re- 
sources for the European theater. 160 But 
in view of the priority of overlord and 
anvil as the paramount operations of 
1944, and the chronic shortage of land- 
ing craft, it was in fact inevitable to re- 
gard any non-European theater of opera- 
tions as potentially a stock pile to be 
raided in order to fatten the ETO. The 
point was perhaps best made by a cable 
which General Marshall sent in Decem- 
ber to all theater commanders and de- 
fense commands. "The landing craft sit- 
uation is critical," General Marshall 
wired, "and will continue to be so for 
some time to come. Any possible increase 
in production is far behind the increas- 
ing demand for landing craft. You are di- 
rected to make every landing ship and 
craft available for and apply them to the 



100 CCS 135th Mtg, 5 Dec 43; JCS 132d Mtg, 28 Nov 
43. 



maximum battle effort.' 101 The word 
went around the world: to Cairo, Algiers, 
Tehran, Chungking, Southwest Pacific 
Area, Fort Shafter (Hawaii), Noumea 
(New Caledonia), Quarry Heights 
(Canal Zone), Anchorage, and Adak Is- 
land (Alaska). Every craft saved was 
precious; wherever it was on the globe 
its fate was tied up with the fate of over- 
lord. 

The net effect of the reallocation of 
craft at the Cairo Conference was to give 
overlord an additional 26 LST's, 24 
LCI(L)'s, and 64 LCT's above the allo- 
cations set at Quebec; and to give anvil 
an additional 41 LST's, 31 LCI (L)'s, 3 
XAP's, and 6 LSI(L)'s. 162 These were sig- 
nificant additions but their impressive- 
ness would pale before the increasing de- 
mands of the big invasion, as continued 
planning brought out the military re- 
alities of the task to be done. 

161 Cbl, RG820, 11 Dec 43. WD Cable log. 
"2 CCS 428 (rev) , Relation of Available Resources 
to Agreed Operations, 15 Dec 43. 



CHAPTER IV 



The German Army In France 
1940—1943 



Organization of the West 

German leaders in the fall of 1943 read 
their newspapers and pored over intel- 
ligence reports with special interest. 
Crisis in the east had been reached and 
passed; there would be no more massed 
German offensives, no decisive victories. 
Crisis in the west was approaching. In 
October, news of the military conference 
in Moscow convinced Hitler and his staff 
that the opening of the second front was 
imminent. The conclusion was modified 
later as press releases from the Tehran 
Conference were taken to indicate a post- 
ponement of the invasion for perhaps 
two or three months. The best guess then 
was that the Allies might attack any time 
after February 1 944, but probably in the 
spring. Whatever the exact time sched- 
ule, most German leaders had little doubt 
that invasion was close at hand. 1 

While the Moscow Conference was 
going on, Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von 

1 Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (see n. 19) / 
Wehrmachtfuehrungsstab, Kriegstagebuch (referred 
to hereafter as OKW/WFSt, KTB) 1.IX.-31.XIIA}, 
11 Dec 43; cf. MS # B-283 by Blumentritt, OB 
WEST (see n. 2) Chief of Staff, who after the war 
wrote that following the declarations from Moscow 
and Tehran the German commanders knew that 
Germany was to be beaten; before that time they 
still hoped for an agreement with the Western Pow- 
ers. See, however, later estimates of Allied intentions 
in Ch. VII, below. 



Rundstedt, Commander in Chief in the 
West, was putting the final touches on a 
long, frank, pessimistic report on the 
state of his defenses. The burden of the 
report was that his army was not in any 
way prepared to resist the expected Al- 
lied attack. In three years of occupation 
little had actually been accomplished to 
make Fortress Europe a military reality. 2 
With the conquest of France in June 
1940, Hitler believed that he had won 
the war. 3 He had no plans ready for the 
next step. He could not understand why 
any more victories should be necessary to 
convince Great Britain that it was hope- 
less to prolong the struggle. But Britain's 
stubbornness, though inexplicable, was 
clearly a fact. Hitler noted in July that 
the British Government was apparently 



2 Beurteilung der Lage Ob. West am 25.X.43, 28 
Oct 43 (cited hereafter as Rundstedt Report, 25 Oct 
43) , Oberbefehlshaber West (referred to hereafter as 
OB WEST) la Nr. 550/43. Oberkommando des 
Heeres (see n. 19) , Generalstab des Heeres/Opera- 
tionsabteilung (referred to hereafter as OKH/Op.- 
Abt.), 28 Oct 43. The German term "Oberbefehh- 
haber West," which may mean either the Com- 
mander in Chief West or his headquarters, has been 
rendered as "OB WEST" when it refers to the head- 
quarters and as "Commander in Chief West" when 
it refers to the person. 

3 See The Private War Journal of Generaloberst 
Franz Haider, 22 Jul 40 (trans) , MS. Hist Div files. 
Cited hereafter as Haider Diary. Haider was Chief 
of the General Staff of the German Army from 1938 
to September 1942. 



THE GERMAN ARMY IN FRANCE, 1940-1943 



129 



set on fighting to the finish, 4 and he 
therefore began serious consideration of 
plans to deliver the coup de grace. 7 ' The 
obvious and most convincing method was 
invasion. 

The projected invasion was given the 
code name SEELOEWE (sea lion) and 
Army and Navy planners set to work in 
a race against time to solve the manifold 
and unfamiliar problems of a large- 
scale amphibious operation. The first 
big problem was that there were no 
landing craft, and very little shipping of 
any description. By gathering up all the 
barges from inland waterways at the cost 
of paralyzing large sections of industry, 
the Germans could reckon on barely 
enough shipping space to put an effective 
force ashore in England. But towed 
barges at the mercy of the slightest wind- 
roughened seas were hardly ideal. The 
perils of improvisation, furthermore, 
would be heightened by the lack of 
naval protection. The only way to guard 
the convoys seemed to be to mass all 
submarines and light surface vessels on 
the North Sea flank and at the same time 
mount a diversionary expedition on the 
Atlantic side to draw the British Fleet 
away from the main crossing. The Navy 
was decidedly cool toward the project. 
Grossadmiral Erich Raeder, the Navy 
Commander in Chief, as early as July- 
had uncovered so many risks that he 
strongly recommended against the opera- 
tion except as a last resort. 7 

Hitler agreed. Quite apart from the 



4 Haider Diary, 13 Jul 40. 

s Conf, 20 Jun 40, ONI, Fuehrer Conferences, 1940, 
Vol. I. 

« Annex 2, Conf, 25 Jul 40, Ibid., Vol. II. It was 
planned to land 90,000 men in the first six days. 

7 Confs, 11 Jul 40 andI3 Aug 40, Ibid., Vols. I and 
II. respectively. Cf. Haider Diary, 31 Jul 40. 



dangers of SEELOEWE, Hitler did not 
like the political implications of conquer- 
ing England by invasion. He saw that the 
defeat of England would be followed by 
disintegration of the British Empire. The 
beneficiaries of such a collapse, he 
thought, would be Japan and the United 
States, not Germany. 8 He wanted not the 
destruction but the surrender of Great 
Britain. To force surrender, he believed 
it was necessary to deprive the British 
finally and completely of all hope in ul- 
timate victory. They therefore must be 
confronted with a solid political front on 
the Continent embracing Spain, Italy, 
and a vanquished Russia. 9 Defeat of 
Russia was particularly important. Hit- 
ler thought that England drew hope 
chiefly from the continued independence 
of the Soviet Union and the United 
States. By knocking out Russia, the Ger- 
mans would remove one source of hope 
and considerably dim the other; Russia's 
defeat would leave Japan strong in the 
Pacific and would probably prevent the 
United States from becoming an effec- 
tive ally of Great Britain in Europe. 
"With Russia smashed," Hitler argued, 
"Britain's last hope would be shattered." 
On 31 July 1940 Hitler decided that 
Russia's destruction "must therefore be 
made a part of this struggle [against 
England]." 10 He set the spring of 1941 
as the target date and ordered prepara- 
tions made for a lightning blow to 
knock out Russia in not more than five 
months. 11 

The decision to attack Russia resulted 
immediately in a reorganization and ex- 

8 Haider Diary, 26 Jul 40. 

9 Ibid., 31 Jul 40. Planning proceeded fitfully for 
an alliance with Spain and the seizure of Gibraltar. 

10 Haider Diary, 31 Jul 40. 

11 Ibid., 17 Aug 40. 



130 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



pansion of the Army. The goal set was 
to build up from 143 to 180 divisions. 12 
As all three of the army groups that de- 
feated France, A, B, and C, were to be 
shifted to the Eastern Front by the spring 
of 1941, it became necessary to create 
a new headquarters to take over the oc- 
cupation of France. This was Army 
Group D, formed during September and 
October under command of Generalfeld- 
marschall Erwin von Witzleben. In order 
to relieve the Army High Command at 
once for exclusive attention to the east, a 
theater commander, Oberbefehlshaber 
West (Commander in Chief West) was 
designated about the same time to take 
charge of all offensive or defensive opera- 
tions that might be mounted in the west. 
Field Marshal Rundstedt, still in com- 
mand of Army Group A (the force ear- 
marked for SEELOEWE), was concur- 
rently appointed Commander in Chief 
West with full command over Army 
Group A and tactical command over 
Army Group D and Armed Forces Com- 
mander Netherlands (Wehrmachtbefehls- 
haber Niederlande). 13 

While these command changes were 
being effected, the German commanders 
were rapidly becoming convinced that 
SEELOEWE was not a sound operation 
of war. The Navy had set the period 
20-26 September as the earliest date on 



12 Memo, Heeresaufbau auf 180 Divisionen, 10 Sep 
40, OKW/Wehrmachtjuehrungsamt, Abteilung 
Landesverteidigung, Gruppe II, Nr. 1650/40. Trans- 
lation found in German Manpower, MS. Hist Div 
files. This is a study by German Military Documents 
Section, WD G-2, prepared in 1946 from original 
German records. 

13 Order, Oberbefehlshaber West, 26 Oct 40, Ober- 
befehlshaber des Heeres (referred to hereafter as 
Ob.d.H.). OKH/Op.Abt., Befehlsbefugnisse 30.V.40- 
2.U.42. 



which it could be ready. 14 But readiness 
even on this date hinged on the ability 
of Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering's 
Luftwaffe to knock out the British Royal 
Air Force. In the Battle of Britain Goer- 
ing tried and failed as British fighter 
pilots demonstrated skill and courage 
that took heavy toll of the attackers. 
There followed a succession of postpone- 
ments, which gained nothing; the Royal 
Air Force remained unconquered and 
the weather, the final insuperable ob- 
stacle, only became more stormy and un- 
predictable as the season advanced. With 
an improvised landing fleet, composed 
largely of river barges only a third of 
which were self-propelled, the Germans 
needed a relatively long period of almost 
flat calm. 15 Such periods were rare in Oc- 
tober and could not be forecast. By the 
middle of October SEELOEWE had been 
definitely called off. Preparations were to 
be continued for a landing in the spring 
but chiefly as a deception measure to keep 
up the pressure on the British. 16 

Rundstedt thus remained in France 
with his Army Group A during the 
winter of 1940-41." In April 1941 he 
was moved out, and command in the 
west passed to von Witzleben, com- 
mander of Army Group D. Witzleben 
was left with three armies, the Seventh 
and Fifteenth occupying the long coast 
line from the Spanish border to Antwerp, 
and the First disposed in the interior 
with headquarters near Paris. 

The threat of invasion or even of dam- 
aging raids by the English against the 

14 Haider Diary, 30 Jul 40. 
" Ibid., 26 Jul 40. 

16 Order, Aufgaben und Gliederung im Westen ab 
Oktober 1940, 17 Oct 40. Heeresgruppe A, KTB 25.- 
VI.-17.X.40, Anlagen, Teil III. 

"Heeresgruppe A, KTB West, 1 .1.-13 .IV .41 . 



THE GERMAN ARMY IN FRANCE, 1940-1943 



131 



Continent in 1941 was so slight as to be 
negligible. Nevertheless, Witzleben began 
taking certain steps to put his defense in 
order. In June, the former Inspector of 
Western Fortresses was appointed In- 
spector of Land Fortresses in the West 
and attached for tactical purposes to 
OB WEST. His headquarters was moved 
from Metz to Paris near that of Witz- 
leben, and his first task was the inspec- 
tion of the defenses of the Channel 
Islands. 

The military reason for defending the 
Channel Islands was chiefly to protect 
coastal traffic. Hitler, however, attached 
to the islands a far greater political im- 
portance. He believed the British would 
be forced to retake them for the sake of 
prestige. 18 Conversely they were precious 
to him as the only British territory 
directly under his domination. In mid- 
summer 1941 the 319th Division, rein- 
forced with machine gun, artillery, anti- 
tank, and antiaircraft units to the strength 
of about 40,000 men, was ordered to the 
islands. This garrison comprising some 
of the best troops and best equipment 
in the west was to remain on Channel 
guard duty, inactive and useless for the 
rest of the war. 

Up to the end of 1941 the only Ger- 
man-built fortifications on the French 
mainland were seven heavy coastal bat- 

18 Interpretation of Warlimont (see n. 52) in 
Geschichte des Oberbefehlshaber West, edited by 
Generalleutnant Bodo Zimmermann (la (G-3) of 
OB WEST) . This is a million-word manuscript pre- 
pared in part by Zimmermann, in part by generals 
and general staff officers associated with OB WEST, 
OKW, OKL (Oberkommando der Luftwaffe) , OKH, 
OKM (Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine) , and vari- 
ous subordinate commands. It was written under the 
auspices of the Historical Division of the U. S. War 
Department between 1946 and 1948. Cited hereafter 
as MS # T-121 (Zimmermann et al.) . 



teries between Boulogne and Calais em- 
placed for the shelling of England during 
preparations for SEELOEWE, a few other 
naval coastal batteries, and some U-boat 
pens. The coastal battery emplacements 
were built for the Navy by Organization 
Todt, the construction organization 
formed in 1938 to build the West Wall. 
After SEELOEWE was called off, Hitler 
directed Organization Todt to construct 
bombproof U-boat pens along the At- 
lantic coast, especially at Brest, Lorient, 
and St. Nazaire. That project, to protect 
what Hitler came more and more to 
regard as his principal offensive weapon 
against the Western Powers, absorbed 
most of the labor and materials available 
for fortification of the west. When Witz- 
leben in September 1941 proposed that 
the Army begin work on permanent de- 
fenses, the Army High Command 
(OKH) 19 had no construction battalions 
to give him and he had to make informal 
arrangements with the Navy to borrow 
such of their workers as were idle. De- 
spite the difficulties, Witzleben at the 
end of 1941 ordered the armies, corps, 
and divisions under him to reconnoiter 
defense sites along the coast and begin 
construction. 20 

This was the first step toward forti- 
fying the west against eventual Allied 
invasion, but without the necessary allot- 
ment of labor and materials it could not 
accomplish much. The actual building 

19 Oberkommando des Heeres. Until December 
1941 this was the headquarters and staff for General- 
feldmarschall Walther von Brauchitsch, Commander 
in Chief of the Army. At that time Hitler took direct 
command of the Army and OKH was directly sub- 
ordinated to him. In addition it was nominally sub- 
ordinate for certain purposes to the Oberkommando 
der Wehrmacht (OKW, Armed Forces High Com- 
mand) . 

20 MS # T-121 (Zimmermann et al.) . 



132 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK. 





FIELD MARSHAL VON RUNDSTEDT AND GENERAL JODL yon Rund- 
stedt (left) was Commander in Chief West; General Jodl was chief of Armed 
Forces Operational Staff. 



of the Atlantic Wall cannot be said to 
have begun before the spring of 1942. 
By then the first Russian winter counter- 
offensive, coupled with American entry 
into the war, had forced Hitler to reckon 
more seriously with prolongation of hos- 
tilities and the consequent possibility of 
major action in the west. 

Early in March 1942 Field Marshal 
Rundstedt was appointed Commander 
in Chief West to replace Witzleben, 21 

21 Officer's Personnel Files, Field Marshal von 
Rundstedt. OKH/Heeres-Personalamt, Personalak- 
ten. Witzleben was put in the OKH Fuehrer Reserve, 
that is, in a pool of officers unassigned but on active 
duty and available for service. Rundstedt's appoint- 
ment as Commander in Chief West was "acting" as 
of 8 March and was made permanent on I May 1942. 



Rundstedt was one of the senior officers 
and leading military personalities in 
Germany. He had been in charge of 
early planning for the Polish campaign 
of 1939 and had commanded an army 
group in that campaign. In 1 940 in France 
he again commanded an army group. 
After the victory over France, he was 
placed in charge of planning and prep- 
arations for the invasion of England. On 
the abandonment of that project, Rund- 
stedt participated in the first offensive 
against Russia as commander of Army 
Group South until the end of 1941, 
when he was relieved because of ill 
health. In March 1942 he reported to 
Hitler that his health was restored and a 



THE GERMAN ARMY IN FRANCE, 1940-1943 



133 



week later received the command in the 
west. 

Two weeks after Rundstedt's appoint- 
ment, Hitler issued his basic order for 
the defense of the west. 22 Sole respon- 
sibility for the defense of all German- 
occupied territory in the west including 
the Netherlands was given to the Com- 
mander in Chief West, and he, along 
with the commander in Denmark, was 
placed directly under the Armed Forces 
High Command (OKW) . This ex- 
tended a process begun earlier of split- 
ting the theaters of operation between 
OKW and OKH, as though they were 
coequal commands. By the beginning of 
1943 OKW had become directly respon- 
sible for all western theaters (France and 
the Low Countries, North Africa and 
Italy, the Balkans, and Scandinavia) 
while OKH devoted exclusive attention 
to the east. The division recognized, in 
the first place, that OKH had its hands 
full with the increasing difficulties of the 
war in Russia. It also, in part, reflected 
the fact that the defense of the west par- 
ticularly called for co-ordination between 
the three services. 23 

Co-ordination was effected, however, 
in name only. OKW, headed by General- 
feldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel, was no 
true joint staff. Naval and air force mem- 
bers were relatively junior officers. 24 

22 Translation of Fuehrer Directive No. 40 is re- 
produced below as Appendix C. 

23 OKW/WFSt, K.TB 1.1.-11.111.43, 2-3 Jan 43; Re- 
capitulation of Fuehrer Directives establishing OKW 
Theaters, 28 May 42, OKW/WFSt, Quartiermeister 
im WFSt. Wehrmachtbejehlshaber Suedost (A. O.K. 
12) Taetigkeitsbericht and Anlagen, VI.42. See also 
The German High Command, a study by German 
Military Documents Section, WD G-2, 1946, MS. Hist 
Div files. 

24 See the Navy's complaint to Hitler on 13 April 
1942 that there was no high-ranking naval officer on 
the Armed Forces High Command (OKW) and that 



Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering and 
Admiral Raeder, furthermore, remained 
outside and above it in personal relation- 
ship with Hitler. Goering as Reichs- 
marschall outranked Keitel who, as chief 
of all the armed services, should have 
been his superior. In addition, Goering 
held a top Cabinet post as Minister of 
Aviation which further set him out of 
reach of OKW. Finally, the Army, wed- 
ded to the notion of Germany as a Conti- 
nental power, had long opposed unifica- 
tion of the services on the basis of equal 
representation and authority. 25 The 
effect of the Army view together with the 
independence of Goering and Raeder 
was to reduce OKW to the position of a 
second Army staff. As long as it had no 
direct responsibility for any one theater 
of operations OKW retained a certain 
perspective and capacity to co-ordinate 
the German war effort, even though the 
bulk of its co-ordination had to pass 
through Hitler himself. With the split- 
ting of the western and eastern theaters, 
OKW, for all practical purposes, lost 



strategy was suffering thereby. Annex 8, Conf, 13 
Apr 42, ONI, Fuehrer Conferences, 1942. What the 
Navy asked for (and apparently got) was not repre- 
sentation on OKW but a flag officer to provide liaison 
at the Fuehrer Headquarters. This underlined the 
fact that such co-ordination between the services as 
existed operated on a personal basis through Hitler 
and not through any formal joint organization. Part 
of the Navy's protest was directed at the very effi- 
cient liaison which Goering had established at the 
Fuehrer Headquarters for the Luftwaffe, although 
the Luftwaffe was actually no better represented on 
OKW than the Navy.. 

25 Memo, Standpunkt Heer und OKW, betreffend 
Denkschrift des Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres ueber 
Organisation der Wehrmachtjuehrung (7. III. 38), 22 
Mar 38. OKW file 1866; cf. MS # C-045 (Natzmer 
et al.) , a postwar study of the historical evolution of 
OKH, which clearly describes the German Army's 
opposition to any unification of the services as co- 
equal participants. 




GERMAN HIGH COMMAND. Left to right: Admiral Raeder, Navy; Field 
Marshal Keitel, chief of OKW; Hitler; and Reich Marshal Goering, Air Force. 



THE GERMAN ARMY IN FRANCE, 1940-1943 



135 



even that limited power to co-ordinate. 
Henceforth the only unity of command 
in Germany rested in the person of 
Hitler, who no longer had adequate ma- 
chinery through which to exercise it. 26 

In the various theaters of operations 
after 1940 no effective machinery was 
ever established to exercise unified com- 
mand. 27 In the west, during an actual 
enemy invasion, the army commanders 
in the battle areas were to have tactical 
control over the air force and naval units 
in their sectors. But the failure to give 
OB WEST a supreme command meant 
that co-ordination of the defense rested 
largely on such informal co-operation 
and liaison as the local commanders 
might choose to establish. The divided 
command would gravely handicap Ger- 
man preparedness. In the meantime, the 
chief positive result of the new top-level 
command organization was to free the 
OKW operational staff (the Wehrmacht- 
fuehrungsstab , WFSt, under General der 
Artillerie Alfred Jodl) from responsibil- 
ity for the war in Russia and so permit 
it to concentrate on the operational needs 
of the west, Italy, the Balkans, and Nor- 
way and Denmark. 

Hitler's basic order sketched out the 
tactical doctrine that henceforth gov- 
erned all planning for the defense of 



26 The organizational structure and evolution of 
OKW and OKH have been described in great detail 
by committees of German officers working under the 
auspices of the Historical Division between 1946 and 
1948. See MSS # T-101, The German Armed Forces 
High Command (Winter et al.) and # T-lll, The 
German Army High Command (Haider et al.) . 

27 The only instance of a joint staff was Gruppe 
XXI, formed in early 1940 by upgrading the XX/ 
Corps. Under the command of General der Infanterie 
Nikolaus von Falkenhorst, it was charged with the 
preparation and conduct of the Scandinavian cam- 
paign in 1940. Gruppe XXI, KTB 20. II. -8. IV AO. 



France. He decreed that the coast de- 
fenses should be so organized and troops 
so deployed that any invasion attempted 
could be smashed before the landing or 
immediately thereafter. The main de- 
fensive preparations were to be made in 
the places most suitable for large enemy 
landings. Beaches where only small sur- 
prise landings were possible were to be 
defended by strong points tied in, if 
possible, with the coastal batteries. The 
rest of the coast would be patrolled. All 
positions were to be designed for de- 
fense to the last man of the garrison. All 
should be equipped with weapons and 
supplies so that even if overrun by the 
enemy they would not be forced to sur- 
render for lack of means to continue the 
fight. 28 

Five days after the issuance of this 
order, Hitler was profoundly shocked by 
the successful British raid on St. Nazaire. 
The spectacle of British ships, including 
a destroyer, sailing with impunity up the 
mouth of the Loire reputedly made him 
furious and focused his attention on the 
inadequacies of the French coastal de- 
fenses. The only immediate outcome, 
however, was the relief of Generalleut- 
nant Karl Hilpert, OB WEST Chief of 
Staff. Hilpert was replaced by General- 
major Kurt Zeitzler, who was close to 
Hitler, and who afterward became Chief 
of the General Staff of OKH. 29 

Later more sober study of the St. Na- 
zaire experience showed even to Hitler 
that the responsible commanders in 
France did not have the resources to deal 



28 Fuehrer Directive No. 40. See below.^rjgendij^J 

29 Officer's Personnel Files, Generaloberst Kurt 
Zeitzler. OKH /Heeres-Personalamt, Personalakten. 
Still later Zeitzler was implicated in the 20 July 1944 
conspiracy against Hitler and dismissed. 



136 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



with determined enemy forays. While 
Allied strength was increasing, German 
strength had been gradually weakened to 
nourish the operations against Russia. 
Admiral Raeder told Hitler bluntly: 
"We have no means of repulsing an 
enemy attempt." Even better defenses at 
St. Nazaire, in the opinion of Raeder, 
would not have stopped a determined 
Allied attack; the only thing that could 
have helped would have been strong 
naval forces and adequate air reconnais- 
sance. Then he ventured a prophecy: "In 
view of the shortages everywhere and the 
necessity of using numerous makeshift de- 
fense measures, experience will show that 
there will constantly be new shortcomings 
in our defenses and new demands made 
upon them." 30 Despite this accurate fore- 
cast of things to come, Hitler was not 
then, and never would be, convinced that 
defense could not be made invulnerable 
if enough concrete and resolution could 
be poured into it. His retort to the St. 
Nazaire raid was to direct that submarine 
bases be so well protected that successful 
raids on them thenceforth would be im- 
possible. 

In August 1942 he expanded his no- 
tions of a concrete coastal wall. In a con- 
ference with Field Marshal Keitel and 
other high-ranking Army officers he pro- 
posed that fortress construction in France 
should proceed with "fanatic energy [Fa- 
natismus]" during the coming winter. 
The object must be to build many small 
strong points to house from thirty to sev- 
enty men each, armed with machine guns 
and "a few other weapons," chiefly anti- 
tank guns. A continuous belt of interlock- 
ing fire must be created emanating from 



80 Conf , 13 Apr 42, ONI, Fuehrer Conferences, 1942. 



concrete structures designed to be proof 
against Allied bombing and naval shell- 
fire. 31 Behind this emphasis on fixed de- 
fenses lay the realization of a grave short- 
age of troops. Already in the summer of 

1942 Hitler estimated that ten to twelve 
more divisions were needed to establish a 
solid defense along the OB WEST coast 
line, but reserves to make up this deficit 
were not available. 

As the summer came to an end, pros- 
pects of victory in Russia were again 
clouded by the north winds. In the mean- 
time the large-scale raid by Canadian 
troops at Dieppe in the latter part of Au- 
gust, though considered an absolute fail- 
ure by the Germans, nevertheless forcibly 
called attention to the increasing threat 
of full-scale invasion by the Western 
Powers. On 29 September, Hitler called 
in Goering, Reich Minister Albert Speer 
(Chief of Organization Todt), Rund- 
stedt, Generalleutnant Guenther Blumen- 
tritt (who had relieved Zeitzler as Chief 
of Staff OB WEST only a few days be- 
fore), General der Pioniere Alfred Jacob 
(Chief Engineer of OKH), Generalleut- 
nant Rudolf Schmetzer (Inspector of 
Land Fortresses for OB WEST), and cer- 
tain other staff officers for a three-hour 
conference in the small Cabinet sitting 
room of the Reich Chancellery. 32 The 
Fuehrer began by expressing his confi- 
dence that Russia would be defeated in 

1943 by a German push in the spring to- 
ward Mesopotamia in the south. He then 



31 Memo, Aktennotiz ueber Fuehrerbesprechung 
am 2.VIII.42 im Fuehrerhauptquartier, 3 Aug 42, 
General der Pioniere und Festungen b.Ob.d.H. 
OKH/Op. Abt., Kuestenschutz Kanalkueste 20.Vl.42- 
18.V.44. 

32 Fuehrerrede zum Ausbau des Atlantik-Walles 
am 29.IX.42, 3 Oct 42. OKH/Op. Abt., Kuesten- 
schutz Kanalkueste 20 .VI .42-18 .V .44 '. 



THE GERMAN ARMY IN FRANCE, 1940-1943 



137 



admitted grave concern over the possi- 
bility of the creation of a second front in 
the west. There was no question of capitu- 
lation, he said, "but I must freely admit 
. . . that a major landing of the enemy in 
the west would bring us to a generally 
critical position." The gravest present 
threat was to Norway, he believed, but 
ultimately it was France that would be in- 
vaded because such an operation would 
require the least amount of shipping ton- 
nage. 

Hitler then went on to analyze the 
Dieppe experience. Even though the 
British field order for the raid, clearly 
specifying a withdrawal of forces after 
nine hours, was captured and studied by 
the Germans, apparently the German 
generals involved reported and Hitler be- 
lieved that Dieppe was actually a major 
landing attempt that failed. On that 
premise he compared the introduction of 
large-scale amphibious operations at 
Dieppe to the introduction of the tank at 
Cambrai in World War I. In both cases, 
he pointed out, the British had failed 
through having planned only the meeting 
engagement, leaving the follow-up to the 
initiative of the field commanders who 
were too timid to exploit their advantage. 
After Cambrai both British and Germans 
drew the false lesson that the tank was 
technically a failure and so "they poured 
out the baby with the bath." He warned 
now against a false deduction on the Ger- 
man side that amphibious operations 
against the coast of France were proved 
impossible by Dieppe. This time, he said, 
the British cannot arrive at a similar con- 
clusion, simply because they have no al- 
ternative but to try again. 

The Germans must prepare the strong- 
est possible defenses. The defenses must 



be prepared, furthermore, on the assump- 
tion that the Allies would enjoy air and 
naval supremacy. The crushing weight of 
Allied bombs and shells, he believed, 
could be withstood only by concrete. Not 
only that, but massive concrete works, he 
believed, had a psychological as well as a 
physical strength. Hitler pointed out that 
the very existence of the West Wall had de- 
terred Daladier in 1938 from threatening 
military action during the Czechoslovakia 
crisis. The West Wall repeated along the 
coast would have the same deterrent ef- 
fect on the Western Allies. Hitler asked 
for 15,000 concrete strong points for the 
new "Atlantic Wall" to be defended by 
300,000 men. The goal was an impervi- 
ous, permanent defense ring. Since the 
amount of time available to build it was 
uncertain, construction was to follow a 
strict priority. In Hitler's view, the most 
important job was to protect the U-boat 
bases. He listed for defense thereafter: 
harbors for coastal traffic, harbors suitable 
for enemy landings (a reflection of the 
Dieppe experience), the Channel Islands, 
and finally landing places on the open 
coast. Beaches deemed most likely to be 
used in a major invasion attempt were to 
be fortified first. But, as Hitler pointed 
out, since the Navy could not guarantee 
that any portion of the coast was safe, the 
whole would have to be walled up even- 
tually. 

It was an ambitious program. Hitler or- 
dered that it be completed by 1 May 1943; 
Organization Todt thought it would be 
lucky to get 40 percent finished by that 
time. At such a rate the defense of the 
coast proper, having the lowest priority, 
became a very long-range program which 
would probably not be completed before 
the Allies struck. In any case it was fan- 



138 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



tastic to suppose that even a first-class mili- 
tary power could be strong everywhere 
along the entire coast line from the Medi- 
terranean to Norway. It followed that de- 
fense preparations would be concentrated 
in accordance with estimates of Allied in- 
tentions. But German intelligence serv- 
ices notably failed to supply reliable in- 
formation about the Western Allies. The 
sparseness of accurate intelligence, the 
plethora of rumors, and the natural 
jitteriness of being on the strategic de- 
fensive led to constantly revised guesses 
that at one time or another pointed out 
grave threats to virtually every section of 
the coast. Division commanders, corps 
commanders, army commanders freely 
contributed predictions that their own 
sectors had been selected for the enemy 
landings. They were moved sometimes by 
logic, more often by desire to compete for 
the limited supplies of troops and ma- 
teriel. They seldom had any sure knowl- 
edge of what was being brewed across the 
Channel. Hitler's intuition was no less 
erratic: at various times he picked the 
Gironde, Brittany, the Cotentin, the Pas- 
de-Calais, and Norway. In late 1943 a cap- 
tured British agent indicated that the 
Allies intended to strike in the Nether- 
lands. 33 He was not believed, and the 
Netherlands actually remained about the 
only sector in the west exempt from spe- 
cial attention as a threatened area. 

Although the Germans could never be 
sure that any sector of the coast was safe, 
the necessity for concentrating their own 
forces led them to categorize roughly the 
degrees of danger. It was common con- 
sensus from the beginning that the sector 
of the Fifteenth Army from the Seine to 



* s OKW/WFSt, KTB 1.IX.-H.XII.43, 31 Oct 43. 



the Schelde was most gravely if not 
uniquely threatened. This estimate, how- 
ever, was based on reasoning, not on in- 
telligence. It was thought the Allies would 
strike here because it was close to Ger- 
many and the Ruhr, and because the short 
Channel crossing would simplify the 
problems of air support and sea reinforce- 
ment. Strategically Allied success in this 
sector would cut off the whole of the Ger- 
man forces to the south. 

The conclusion that the Kanalkueste 34 
was the most likely place for a major land- 
ing, arrived at in the early days of plan- 
ning the Atlantic Wall, was never seri- 
ously shaken by any later information. 
Even when other sectors appeared threat- 
ened, the threats were deemed diversion- 
ary. Rationalization had a persuasiveness 
that the meager reports of fact never had. 
Furthermore, once the concrete was 
poured, the original estimate became pe- 
culiarly difficult to alter. During 1942, 
for instance, four times as much concrete 
was allotted the left corps of Fifteenth 
Army as to the LXXXIV Corps in Nor- 
mandy and Brittany. 35 By May 1943 the 
concentration of troops along the Fif- 
teenth Army coast was almost three times 
as heavy as in Seventh Army— the army 
that would oppose the invasion. 30 

In the summer of that year a new im- 
portance was given to the Pas-de-Calais 
area. It was here that Hitler planned to 
install his Vergeltungs (vengeance) weap- 
ons, the long-range rockets and pilotless 



34 Term generally coinciding with the sector of 
Fifteenth Army. It includes the Pas-de-Calais area 
and the Somme-Seine coast. 

35 MS # B-234 (Generalleutnant Max Pemsel, 
CofS Seventh Army) . 

36 Schematische Kriegsgliederung, 1 May 43. 
OKH/Op.Abt.; sec also Rundstedt Report, 25 Oct 
43. 



140 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



aircraft from which he expected a com- 
plete reversal of the course of the war. He 
believed that the V-weapons would prove 
so dangerous to England that the Allies, 
whatever their previous plans might have 
been, would be forced to attack directly to 
overrun the launching sites. This esti- 
mate, of course, entailed the further con- 
clusion that the bulk of the German de- 
fenses should be emplaced to defend the 
rocket sites. In June 1943 Hitler assigned 
construction priority to those portions 
of the Atlantic Wall defending rocket- 
launching areas. 37 

Although by far the strongest fortified 
portion of the French coast, even the 
Kanalkueste never became anything like 
the impregnable fortress that German 
propaganda advertised. Hitler, having 
ordered the creation of a wall of concrete 
and fire which could stop any invasion at 
the water's edge, apparently believed that 
such a wall would be built and paid little 
further attention to it. He never saw any 
portion of the western fortifications. After 
leaving Paris in triumph in the summer 
of 1940 he did not set foot on French soil 
again until a week after the Allied inva- 
sion in June 1944. 38 Absorbed with the 
struggle against Russia, he scarcely heeded 
the stream of memoranda in which the 
Commander in Chief West pointed out 



37 OKW/WFSt, KTB 1 .VII— n .VIII. 43, 14 Jul 43, 
referring to conference of 28 June. The term, "V-l," 
recommended by Reich Minister Josef Paul Goebbels 
and approved by Hitler, was adopted as "an instru- 
ment of propaganda" by directive of OKW: "The V 
used in this designation is ... to counteract the 
enemy's usage of this letter (Victory) , and the 
numeral 1 is to point toward other possible means of 
stepping up this type of warfare by remote control 
against England." Seehriegsleitung/l.Abt., KTB 
1.-30. VI .44, 25 Jun 44. 

38 MS # T-121 (Zimmermann et al.) . See below, 
Ch. X. 



and reiterated the entire inadequacy of 
German preparations for the defense of 
France. 

In the spring of 1943 Rundstedt went 
to Berchtesgaden to present his case in 
person. But Hitler was still not interested 
in bad news from the west. He was look- 
ing forward to great victories in the east. 
He talked of how two thousand German 
tanks would annihilate at least ninety 
Russian divisions in the new spring of- 
fensive. Rundstedt, after abrupt dis- 
missal, returned to France and embarked 
on a comprehensive survey of the state of 
his defenses. It was this survey which re- 
sulted in the detailed report of 25 Oc- 
tober. This he forwarded to OKW with a 
special request that it be brought to the 
personal attention of Hitler. 39 

Impact of the Russian 
and Mediterranean Fronts 

Rundstedt said little about the Atlantic 
Wall. He mentioned delays in naval con- 
struction due to a faulty priority system 
which had only just been straightened 
out. But for the most part he was less in- 
terested in the state of the permanent de- 
fenses than in the combat value of his 
troops. The wall, he said, was valuable 
for fighting as well as for propaganda, 
"but it must not be believed that this wall 
cannot be overcome." Strongly defended 
fortifications might be a more or less ef- 
ficient means of weakening the attacking 
enemy by splitting his forces, but victory 
in the west could be achieved only by 
rapidly mounted, strong counterattacks. 40 

In the light of this basic requirement, 
Rundstedt pointed out how thin his line 

39 MS # T-121. 

i0 Rundstedt Report, 25 Oct 43. 



THE GERMAN ARMY IN FRANCE, 1940-1943 



141 



of defense really was. The average coastal 
sector of a single division ranged from 50 
miles in the Fifteenth Army sector to 120 
miles in the Seventh Army sector and 217 
miles along the Atlantic coast. 41 The 
coastal divisions, moreover, were almost 
all understrength— a good many had only 
two regiments. Their armament, particu- 
larly in antitank weapons and artillery, 
was often inadequate for a maximum de- 
fense of their positions. Most serious of 
all, in Rundstedt's eyes, was their almost 
total lack of transport. 

All these deficiencies were the direct re- 
sult of the drain on the German war econ- 
omy to maintain the Russian and Medi- 
terranean fronts. The opening of the Rus- 
sian front in 1941 had turned the west 
into a kind of replacement center. To- 
ward the end of that year the Commander 
in Chief West was already complaining 
that his troops were being siphoned off 
at a dangerous rate. 42 The complaint was 
futile; the process, in fact, had only just 
begun. From 1942 "the hard-pressed 
Eastern Front always short of forces 
looked with envy at the apparently sleep- 
ing army in the west, and at every crisis 
the higher commanders in the east . . . de- 
manded that the reservoir be tapped. In 
the need of the moment these troops were 
usually conceded." 43 

In 1942 the process of east-west troop 



41 Note that this compared to an average sector on 
the Russian front o£ 32.5 miles to a corps. OKH, 
Generalstab des Heeres (cited hereafter as OKH, 
Gen.St.d.H.) / Organisationsabteilung, KTB Anlagen, 
1943. 

42 Ltr, OB WEST to OKH/Op.Abt., 19 Dec 41, 
OKH/OP.Abt., Gliederung West, Bd. IV, 9.VIII.41- 
4.1.42. 

43 MS # B-672 (Generalmajor Horst Freiherr 
Treusch v. Buttlar-Brandenfels (OKW) ) . This is a 
commentary on Zimmermann's preliminary narra- 
tive of OB WEST (MS # B-308) . 



exchanges was regularized. In May the 
Commander in Chief West issued an 
order concerning the reconstitution of 
divisions shifted from the Russian front 
to France emphasizing speed in re-equip- 
ping these divisions and the importance 
of maintaining the special toughness 
(Ost-Haerte) of the troops. In the same 
order Rundstedt warned against allowing 
the troops who had returned from the 
east to patronize those troops perma- 
nently stationed in the west. The latter, 
he pointed out, had done their duty and 
it was not their fault that they could not 
be used for fighting in the east. 44 In short, 
it was made a matter of policy that the 
west should be permanently garrisoned 
only by troops who because of various 
disabilities could not be used in the hard 
fighting in Russia. OKH, in October, pro- 
posed a regular monthly exchange of two 
divisions between Army Group Center 
and OB WEST and one division between 
Army Group North and the Norway gar- 
rison. OKH listed ten infantry divisions 
under OB WEST command which were 
immediately suitable for exchange with 
the east. At the same time it was proposed 
not to transfer any mobile divisions (ar- 
mored and motorized) until spring to 
avoid using them up in winter fighting in 
Russia. But that was like trying to hold 
on to a parasol in a hurricane. A month 
later, Hitler ordered the immediate trans- 
fer of the 6th Panzer Division from the 
west to the sector of Stalino-Volchansk. 
In the first eleven months after October 
1942 the east-west exchange system took 



44 Grundlegender Befehl des Oberbefehlshabers 
West Nr. 3, Aufgaben der Ost-Divisionen, 10 May 
42. OKW/WFSt, 1. Generalstabsoffizier Heer (re- 
ferred to hereafter as OKW/WFSt, Op. (H)), Grund- 
legende Befehle West 22.X.42-7.V.44. 



142 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



twenty-two infantry and six armored or 
motorized divisions out of the west. This 
was in addition to a constant weeding out 
of the best personnel and equipment from 
divisions considered unsuitable as a whole 
for east duty. 45 

Thus in 1943, a year of increasing 
threats of attack from the west, the Ger- 
man armies in France had not even held 
their own. General Blumentritt, the OB 
WEST chief of staff, in September sum- 
marized the deterioration for the high 
command. A year ago, he pointed out, the 
Atlantic Wall had been garrisoned with 
twenty-two infantry divisions most of 
which had three regiments. In reserve 
were six infantry and seven fully mobile, 
first-class armored or motorized divisions. 
Now, he continued, in a much more dan- 
gerous situation, the garrison infantry di- 
visions had increased to twenty-seven, but 
this increase was largely nullified by the 
reduction of most of the divisions to two 
regiments. In reserve were six armored or 
motorized divisions and seven infantry 
divisions, of which three were new organ- 
izations. In other words, though the hold- 
ing strength remained about constant in 
numbers the quality had certainly de- 
clined; the striking power had decreased 
slightly in numbers and very substantially 
in mobility. 40 



45 Various papers in Austausch Ost-West, 1.IX.42- 
28.11.44, OKH/Op.Abt. A total of 28 infantry divi- 
sions, 4 armored divisions, 2 motorized divisions, and 
4 smaller units were alerted for service in the east 
after 1 October 1942. 

"« OKW/WFSt, KTB 1 .IX.-31 .XII .43 . For figures 
as of 1 Sep 42, cf. Memo, West-Divisionen, die ab 
1.10.42 zur Verlegung in den Osten geeignet sind, 
1 Sep 42. OKH/Op.Abt., Austausch Ost-West l.IX.- 
42-28. 11.44. The panzer and panzer grenadier divi- 
sions contained substantially more men than the 
two-regiment infantry divisions. See below, Ch. VII. 



There was no appeasing the hunger of 
the Eastern Front. The continual protests 
of the Commander in Chief West and 
even Hitler's own resolution toward the 
end of 1943 to halt the weakening of the 
west were alike swept aside by the de- 
mands for more and more men to halt the 
tide of Russian victories. The German 
Army went into Russia in June 1941 with 
3,300,000 men. 47 By the spring of 1943, 
despite every effort to get replacements, 
the eastern army had been reduced by 
600,000. Built back up to three million 
for the summer offensive, it suffered an- 
other net reduction of a half million by 
September. 48 In 1943 alone, the Germans 
estimated that they had a total of 2,086,- 
000 casualties in the east, of which 677,- 
000 were permanent losses (that is, the 
killed and missing, unfit, and one-third of 
all wounded). 49 The net losses continued 
to mount so that in the year from July 
1943 through June 1944 the gap between 



47 This is approximately the same strength as the 
maximum build-up of the U.S. Army on the Con- 
tinent in 1945. 

48 OKH, Gen.St.d.H./Organisationsabteilung (re- 
ferred to hereafter as OKH/Org. Abt.) , KTB An- 
lagen, 1943. 

49 Memo, Berechnungsunterlagen fuer Schaubild 
"Zugaenge und Abgaenge des Ostheeres vom No- 
vember 42 bis Oktober 43" (Stand 5. XII. 43), 14 Dec 
43. OKH/Org.Abt., KTB Anlagen 1.XII.-10.XII.43. 
German losses (killed, missing, and wounded) from 
June 1941 to December 1943 totaled 3,726,000, of 
which 3,513,000 were lost on the Eastern Front. Rpt, 
Personelle blutige Verluste vom 22.Juni 1941 bis 
31.Dezember 1943, 4 Jan 44. OKH / Generalquartier- 
meister, der Heeresarzt, OKH/Org.Abt., Arzt Meld- 
ungen, Monatsmeldungen ab l.VII.43. The propor- 
tions of wounded to total casualties and of seriously 
wounded to those returnable to duty were almost 
identical in the U.S. Army. See [John E. Henderson] 
The Procurement and Use of Manpower in the Eu- 
ropean Theater (The Administrative and Logistical 
History of the ETO: Part IX) , MS, pp. 84-85. Hist 
Div files. 



THE GERMAN ARMY IN FRANCE, 1940-1943 



143 



losses and replacements amounted to 
535,000. 50 

Even these figures do not truly reflect 
the exhaustion of the German Army. Of 
151 German Army divisions listed in the 
OKH order of battle for the Russian front 
in December 1943, ten panzer and fifty 
infantry divisions were "fought out" 
(abgekaempft) or, in other words, of 
negligible combat value. Eleven of the 
named infantry "divisions" were actually 
only Kampfgruppen. At the same time 
there were twelve full divisions in Italy, 
while OB WEST had forty-six divisions 
plus two regiments that were operational 
and another seven divisions in process of 
formation. These figures strikingly re- 
veal the strain exerted by the Russian war: 
the number of divisions in the east which 
needed replacement and reconstitution 
was greater than the total number of di- 
visions in the two western theaters. 61 

The war in Russia was always the princi- 
pal vacuum into which German resources 
were sucked and destroyed, but Allied at- 
tacks on North Africa in November 1942 
and subsequent Allied Mediterranean op- 
erations superimposed an additional 
strain which contributed substantially to 
the weakening of the west. General der 
Artillerie Walter Warlimont of ORW 52 
concluded after the war that the invasion 
of North Africa, which came as a com- 
plete surprise to Hitler, was actually "de- 
cisive for the whole conduct of the war" 



60 Chart, Gesamt Zu- u. Abgaenge des Feldheeres 
in der Zeit vom 1 .VII.43-30.VI.44, 3 Jul 44. OKH/- 
Org.Abt., KTB Anlagen, 1944. 

61 OKH/Org.Abt., KTB Anlagen, 1. XII .-10. XII. .43; 
OKW/WFSt, KTB l.IX-3 .XII.43 , 3 Nov 43. To this 
Russian pressure U. S. lend-lease contributed enor- 
mously. See Pogue, The Supreme Command. 

62 Warlimont was deputy chief o£ the Armed 
Forces Operations Staff (WFSt) . 



for it established a "springboard for a 
thrust into the groin of Fortress Europe, 
the naturally weak and practically unpre- 
pared south flank." 53 One immediate re- 
sult of Allied landings in North Africa on 
8 November 1942 was to force German oc- 
cupation of the whole of France and add 
some four hundred miles of Mediter- 
ranean coast line to OB WEST'S respon- 
sibilities. 

Plans for the occupation of Vichy 
France were completed in July 1942. 
Troops were alerted on 7 November, the 
day before the Allied landings in North 
Africa. Ten divisions under two armies 
(the First and Army Felber) moved across 
the Demarcation Line on 11 November 
and, without opposition from the French, 
occupied the Spanish border and the 
Mediterranean coast as far as Toulon. The 
area from there east and as far north as a 
line between Lyon and the Swiss border 
was taken over at the same time by the 
Italian Fourth Army, which moved in 
with six divisions and three corps head- 
quarters. In December the units under 
the German First Army withdrew and 
First Army responsibility was thereafter 
limited to the Atlantic coast line as far 
north as the Loire River. The Mediter- 
ranean became the responsibility of Army 
Felber. 54 

These arrangements lasted aoout six 
months. In June 1943 Rundstedt notified 
General der Infanterie Hans-Gustav Fel- 
ber that Italian collapse seemed possible 
and he was therefore to prepare to relieve 

53 MS # T-121 (Zimmermann et al.) . 

6i Armeeoberkommando 7 (referred to hereafter 
as Seventh Army) , KTB IX.-XII.42 and Anlagen; 
Armeeoberkommando 1 (referred to hereafter as 
First Army), KTB 10. VII. -31 .XII. 42 and Anlagen; 
Hoeheres Kommando XXXXV (Armee Felber), 
Korpsbefehle, la 22.III.40-29.IX.42. 



144 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



the Fourth Army. His local commanders 
were to try to get the Italians to continue 
fighting on the side of the Germans, but 
those who could not be persuaded were 
to be disarmed. Labor troops were to be 
formed of those willing to work, and the 
rest were to be regarded as prisoners of 
war. 

During the campaign in Sicily and 
through the fall of Mussolini the Fourth 
Army held on in France. But on 10 Au- 
gust the Italian supreme command pro- 
posed withdrawal of the army to defend 
Italy against the expected Allied invasion 
of the mainland. 55 Two days later Felber 
was relieved by General der Infanterie 
Georg von Sodenstern. During the next 
few weeks the command in the south was 
renamed the Nineteenth Army and prep- 
arations were completed to relieve the 
Italians. The relief, which absorbed four 
German divisions, was carried out early 
in September. Except for a brief fight at 
the Mount Cenis tunnel by units of the 
Italian 5th Alpini Division the relief was 
peaceful. But in the course of it about 40,- 
000 Italian troops were made prisoner 
and sent into the interior of France as 
labor troops. No more than a handful 
volunteered to fight beside the Germans. 56 

Southern France was only one of the 
vacuums created by Italian collapse. As 
soon as collapse seemed imminent the 
Germans made plans to shift troops into 
the Italian peninsula and into the Bal- 



65 A more likely reason was to get troops for the 
defense of Italy against the Germans and particularly 
to defend Rome. See Mario Roatta, Otto Milioni di 
Baionette (Milan, 1943) , p. 287. 

66 OKW/WFSt, KTB 1.VII.-31.VIII.43, 23-28 Aug 
43; First Army, KTB 1 .V1I.-30JX.43 and Anlagen; 
Armeeoberkommando 19 (referred to hereafter as 
Nineteenth Army), KTB 20. VI. -31. XII A3 and An- 
lagen. 



kans. The total number required was not 
large, but the added strain was severe. The 
planned 1943 summer offensive in Rus- 
sia (Operation ZITADELLE), becoming 
an exhausting defensive action, drew off 
so many troops that OKW in July could 
find only twelve divisions available for 
occupying Italy. 57 All of these were al- 
ready either in northern Italy or under 
OB WEST command. Impoverished by 
contributions to the Russian war, OB 
WEST was now to be beggared to nour- 
ish the Mediterranean. Before 1 Septem- 
ber, Rundstedt had given up eight infan- 
try and nine panzer divisions to Africa 
and Italy and one infantry and one panzer 
division to the Balkans. These comprised, 
moreover, some of the best-quality troops 
remaining in the west after earlier with- 
drawals for Russia. 58 

Besides forcing direct contributions of 
troops, Allied attacks in Italy weakened 
the whole defense system of the west by 
creating invasion threats to southern 
France. Although Rundstedt never reck- 
oned with a major landing on his Medi- 
terranean coast, he did count as probable 
a diversionary attack tied in with a large- 
scale invasion in the northwest. In his Oc- 
tober report he pointed out that the 
Rhone Valley was a natural invasion route 
to the north and that the ports of Toulon 
and Marseille would undoubtedly be 
tempting to the Allies. General Soden- 
stern in August 1943 noted the clear stra- 
tegic connection between thrusts from the 
north and south and recalled that the 

67 OKW/WFSt, KTB 1 .VII.-31.VIII.43 , 14 Jul 43. 

68 OKW/WFSt, KTB 1JX.-J1.XII.43, 11 Sep 43. 
Total withdrawals for Russia and the Mediterranean 
up to 1 September 1943 were thus 31 infantry and 
16 mobile divisions. The figures given by Rundstedt 
in his report as of 1 October 1943 were 36 infantry 
and 17 mobile divisions. 



THE GERMAN ARMY IN FRANCE, 1940-1943 



145 



Rhone Valley had been a historic route 
to the upper Rhine for invading armies 
since the wars of Caesar. 59 

The "three-front" war all but ex- 
hausted the normal German manpower 
reservoirs. The Germans then turned to 
extraordinary sources to fill up the deci- 
mated ranks of the west army. The prin- 
cipal last-ditch sources were foreign per- 
sonnel (chiefly Russian), young recruits 
of the classes of 1925 and 1926, convales- 
cents often with physical disabilities, or- 
ganizational overhead, and troops in oc- 
cupied areas comparatively safe from in- 
vasion threats, like Norway and Denmark. 
Divisions that remained in the west but 
had their rosters combed out for replace- 
ments for eastern service were replen- 
ished with men rated less fit for combat. 
Divisions transferred to the east were re- 
placed with new formations, sometimes 
with good personnel, more often with a 
mixture of fit and unfit, experienced and 
green, German and foreign. 

In June 1 941 the German Army was en- 
tirely German and prided itself on its 
"racial purity." With the opening of the 
Russian campaign, German propaganda 
began to internationalize German war 
aims as a crusade against Bolshevism. At 
the same time the requirements for men 
to administer and defend vast occupied 
territories while well over two million 
men fought in the Russian battlefields 
made imperative the opening of almost 
any conceivable additional source of 
manpower. "Racial Germans" (Volks- 
deutsche), especially from Poland, were 
given conditional German citizenship 
and under this fiction made subject to the 
draft. As time went on the fiction was ex- 

69 Notes written in August 1943, appended to MS 
# B-276 (Sodenstern) . 



tended often to persons who could not 
even speak German. Recruiting was be- 
gun also in the occupied territories of 
Russia and units formed of the so-called 
Freiwilligen (volunteers). As the pres- 
sure for more and more men developed, 
the Freiwilligen, too, lost more and more 
of their volunteer character. In the late 
fall of 1941 Hitler authorized the employ- 
ment of Russian prisoners in the German 
Army, formalizing a procedure already 
applied by field commanders. The ma- 
jority of the Hilfswillige (auxiliaries) 
were employed as labor troops in war 
areas. Through increasing admixture 
with these three categories, V olksdeutsche , 
Freiwillige, and Hilfswillige, the "racial 
purity" of the German Army became 
more and more dilute. 60 In 1 944 the Army 
included as "volunteers" from occupied 
and allied territories: French, Italians, 
Croatians, Hungarians, Romanians, Poles, 
Finns, Estonians, Letts, Lithuanians, 
North Africans, Negroes, Asiatics, Rus- 
sians, Ukrainians, Ruthenians, Kazaks, 
North-Caucasians, Georgians, Azerbai- 
jani, Armenians, Turkomans, Volga- 
Tatars, Volga-Finns, Kalmucks, Crimean 
Tatars, and even Indians. 

The Volksdeutschen^rawn chiefly from 
territories which Germany intended to 
integrate with the Reich, were originally 
classified in four categories according to 
the degree of their overt sympathy with 
the Nazi party. The majority were placed 
in the third category (Volksliste drei) com- 
prising racial Germans who despite previ- 
ous integration in the Polish national cul- 
ture were deemed amenable to German- 
ization. 61 Volksliste drei persons were 

60 German Manpower. MS cited n. 12. 
01 Category I included the active Nazis; II, the 
passive Nazis who had, however, preserved their 



146 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



given a ten-year probationary citizenship 
and drafted if of military age. Although 
integrated for the most part in the Army 
they were forbidden to rise above the rank 
of private first class. 62 

Rundstedt, in October 1943, com- 
mented on the lower morale of the Volks- 
deutschen, due, he thought, not to ill will 
on their part but to the fact that their fam- 
ilies were not being treated like the fami- 
lies of front-line German soldiers. But the 
reliability of the Volksdeutschen con- 
cerned him much less than that of the 
volunteer Russian combat battalions 
which his command had been forced to 
accept in the latter part of the year. 63 The 
original idea back of the formation of the 
Ost (east) battalions was to employ anti- 
Red Russian peoples (generally prisoners 
of war) in the crusade against the Soviet 
Union. When the third great German 
summer offensive soured in 1943 and the 
German armies began a retrograde move- 
ment that had all the earmarks of final re- 
treat, the anti-Bolshevik recruits became 
increasingly unreliable and it was decided 
to transfer them to the west in exchange 
for German troops. In September OKW 
ordered the exchange on the basis of two 
Ost battalions for one German battal- 
ion. 64 At that time OKH reported that 
15,800 Osttruppen were trained and that 
25,000 more would be trained in Novem- 
ber and December. During September 
and October, about forty-five Cossack, 
Georgian, North-Caucausian, Turkoman, 

Germanic spirit; and IV, those hostile to integration 
into the German state. See Der Prozess gegen die 
Hauptkriegsverbrecher vor dem Internationalen Mili- 
taergerichtshof (Nuremberg, 1947), III, 653. 

62 WD TM-E # 30-451, Military Intelligence Di- 
vision, The German Replacement Army (Ersatzheer). 

63 Rundstedt Report, 25 Oct 43. 
<*OKW/WFSt, KTB 1. IX.-} 1. XII .41, 25 Sep 43. 



Armenian, Volga-Tatar, Azerbaijanian, 
Volga-Finn, and miscellaneous Ost bat- 
talions were brought into the OB WEST 
sector. 65 The original ratio of one Ger- 
man for two Ost battalions was consider- 
ably modified to the advantage of the Rus- 
sian theater. Plans at the end of October 
were to exchange thirty-two more Ost 
battalions for twenty-six German battal- 
ions of which OB WEST would furnish 
twenty and Norway and Denmark the re- 
maining six. By May 1944 Seventh Army 
alone had twenty-three Ost battalions of 
infantry. 66 This represented about one- 
sixth of the total number of rifle battal- 
ions in the Army. In the LXXXIV Corps 
sector in Normandy and Brittany, out of 
forty-two rifle battalions, eight were com- 
posed of Osttruppen. 

Besides recruiting prisoners of war, the 
Germans added to their military man- 
power by relaxing physical standards. At 
the end of 1943 the physical fitness cate- 
gories were cut down from four to three. 
The limited service classification was 
abolished and men were to be graded as 
fit for service at the front, fit for service 
in Germany, or totally unfit. Those with 
relatively minor ear, stomach, and lung 
ailments were to be sent to the front. Con- 
valescence time was ordered cut down. 67 
No accurate picture of the physical state 
of the German Army in the west is pos- 
sible. Physical standards were unquestion- 
ably much lower than in Allied armies. 
But although the majority of troops in the 
west were considered unfit for combat in 



66 OKUIOp.AU., Kraefte Westen, Allgemein, Band 
III, 24. VII. 4 2-1. XI. 4 3. 

66 Kriegsgliederung, 18 May 44. Seventh Army, 
KTB Anlagen 1J.-30.VI.44. 

81 OKW/WFSt, KTB 1.IX.-31.X11.43, 5 Dec 43. 



THE GERMAN ARMY IN FRANCE, 1940-1943 



147 



Russia, the cause of unfitness was often in- 
adequate training, lack of transport, and 
lack of equipment rather than the phys- 
ical condition of the men. 

In the whole German Army the average 
age in 1944 was 31 .5 years, four and a half 
years older than the average age of the 
German Western Front Army in 1917 and 
more than six years older than the U. S. 
Army in 1943. Of an Army of 4,270,000 
in December 1943 more than a million 
and a half were over 34 years old. 68 In the 
west the older-age classes as well as a large 
proportion of the relatively unfit were as- 
signed to the static coastal divisions. Even 
so, repeated raids were made on the static 
divisions to sort out their best men for 
east duty. Eventually these divisions ac- 
quired a substantial number of the over- 
age, the very young (classes of 1925 and 
1926), men with third-degree frostbite, 
Volksdeutsche (which were used up to 8 
percent of division strength), and Ost- 
truppen. The average age of the 709th 
Division which held the east coast of the 
Cotentin was thirty-six. 09 The fact that 
one whole division was almost entirely 
composed of men suffering from stomach 
ailments is dramatic, if somewhat mis- 
leading, evidence of the lengths to which 
German leaders went to fill up the ranks 
of the Army. It is misleading because, in 
contrast to the static coastal divisions, the 
offensive divisions (infantry, parachute, 



68 OKH/Org.Abt., KTB Anlagen, 1943. 

69 Oberstleutnant Hoffmann, Benefit Kampfgruppe 
von Schlieben 6.-22. Vl.44, cited hereafter as Hoffmann 
Report. Seventh Army, KTB Anlagen 1 .I.-30.V1 .44 . 
Hoffmann was the commander of the 3d Battalion, 
919th Regiment, of the 709th Division. After von 
Schlieben's forces had been bottled up in Cherbourg 
in June 1944, Hoffmann escaped by E-boat with 
orders to report to the Seventh Army. See below, Ch. 
X. 



armored, and SS) contained excellent 
personnel. Though relatively new organ- 
izations, most seem to have been ade- 
quately trained and equipped by the time 
of the invasion. 70 

Many of the deficiencies of the German 
Army in the west at the end of 1943 were 
substantially made up in the first six 
months of 1944; others were chronic and 
could at best only be patched over with 
makeshift measures. The most serious of 
the latter was the lack of manpower and 
especially of first-class combat soldiers. It 
should be remembered, however, that this 
constituted primarily a strategic weak- 
ness. While it affected the strength of the 
Atlantic Wall defenses both in reducing 
the numbers and quality of the coastal 
garrisons, its real importance was not for 
the battle of the beaches but for the cam- 
paign to follow. In naturally strong coastal 
defenses even a relative handful of sec- 
ond-class troops could give good account 
of themselves. The drain of the three- 
front w r ar meant above all that there were 
no strategic reserves. Losses could not be 
made up. The divisions in the west could 
not hope for replacement when they were 
fought out. The defensive crust could be 
thickened and spiked and made very for- 
midable indeed, but only at the expense 
of putting everything forward. The 

70 MS # C-024 (Kraemer) . This manuscript by 
Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Fritz Kraemer, / SS 
Panzer Corps chief of staff, represents a minority 
judgment among the views o£ the German generals 
reporting after the war on their difficulties. It is ac- 
cepted here because as an admission contrary to in- 
terest it seems to carry more weight than the gen- 
erally unspecific assertions of other commanders. 
The gist of the opposing view was that the troops 
were not so thoroughly trained as they might have 
been. But this is a relative judgment and it is seldom 
clear what standards the commanders had in mind. 
For a discussion of certain deficiencies in training 
and equipment, see below, Ch. VII. 



148 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



enemy was hollow and he would be shown 
so in the later phases of overlord. 

Rebuilding the Western Defenses 

Rundstedt's report of 25 October on 
the weakness of the western defenses was 
read by Hitler; his reply was the issuance 
on 3 November of Fuehrer Directive No. 
5 1 , the second basic order dealing with the 
west. 71 The order was, in fact, elicited not 
only by Rundstedt's bill of particulars but 
by the military reverses that the German 
armies suffered in the east and south in 
the course of the year and the growing 
conviction that the Allies would soon 
seek a decision in the west. The bitter and 
costly fighting of the last two and half 
years against Bolshevism, Hitler wrote, 
had strained to the utmost German mili- 
tary capacities. That strain had to be 
borne, but now while the danger in the 
east remained it was outweighed by the 
threat from the west where enemy success 
would strike immediately at the heart of 
the German war economy. Therefore, 
there should be no more weakening of the 
west in favor of other theaters. Threat- 
ened portions of the coast line were to be 
strengthened by the maximum emplace- 
ment of coastal artillery, fixed antitank 
weapons, dug-in tanks, mines, and so on. 
At the same time, as security against the 
possibility of any enemy eruption through 
the coastal crust, the maximum mobile 
reserves should be created for rapid 
counterattack. 

The Army would submit a plan to 
equip every panzer and panzer grenadier 
division with ninety-three Mark IV tanks 
or assault guns and with strong antitank 



71 Translation reproduced below as|Appendix D. 



defenses by the end of December 1943. 
Reserve panzer divisions should be fully 
equipped; 72 antitank guns and machine 
guns were to be delivered in quantity to 
OB WEST units. It was forbidden to 
transfer armored units out of the west 
without Hitler's specific approval. OB 
WEST would conduct exercises to plan 
the shift of partly mobile units from por- 
tions of the coast not threatened by at- 
tack. The Luftwaffe and Navy were or- 
dered to strengthen their defenses. Hitler 
concluded with an exhortation to maxi- 
mum effort in preparing for the expected 
"decisive struggle in the west." 

The order against weakening the west 
could not, or at least would not, be strictly 
carried out. On 23 November OB WEST 
was directed to speed up the reorganiza- 
tion of the 60th Panzer Grenadier Divi- 
sion for immediate transfer to the east. On 
3 December, 10,000 men of the class of 
1925 were ordered pruned from divisions 
in the west to be replaced with men who 
had been previously deferred for occu- 
pational reasons. At about the same time 
the number of heavy weapons allotted to 
the west was reduced in favor of the east. 
During 1944 the troop transfers would 
continue. 73 

These continued transfers, however, 
were in the course of the first half of 1944 
more than made up. The failure to ad- 
here to the letter of Directive 51 revealed 
the continuing pressure of the war in the 
east, but more striking was the vigor and 
success with which the rebuilding of the 
west was undertaken despite that pres- 
sure. November 1943 thus marked an im- 



72 See below, Ch. VII, for discussion of various 
types of German divisions. 

™OKW/WFSt, KTB UX.-1J.XU.43, 23 Nov, 3 
and 11 Dec 43. 



THE GERMAN ARMY IN FRANCE, 1940-1943 



149 



portant new beginning in German de- 
fense preparations in the west. The new 
beginning was signalized in the same 
month by the introduction of General- 
feldmarschall Erwin Rommel, the famed 
desert tactician, into the western scene. 

The circumstances of Rommel's selec- 
tion are somewhat confused. Since the 
summer of 1943 Rommel had been in 
northern Italy at the head oiArmy Group 
B— the force that moved in when it be- 
came clear that the Mussolini partnership 
was on the point of collapse. Meanwhile, 
operations in Sicily and against the Allied 
landings in the south were directed by 
Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring 
(OB SUED). At Hitler's wish, plans had 
been worked out and orders issued as 
early as August 1943 for the eventual as- 
sumption of command by Rommel over 
all German forces in Italy. The intention 
of making Rommel the theater com- 
mander in Italy was adhered to until the 
latter part of October, when, for reasons 
unknown, Hitler changed his mind and 
on the 25th appointed Kesselring in- 
stead. 74 This choice in effect left Rommel 
and his staff surplus at a time when Hitler 
and OKW were seeking new means to 
strengthen the west against Allied inva- 
sion threats. Hitler himself had long been 
convinced of the desirability of having a 
high command in reserve and he seized 
this opportunity. 75 Three days after Kes- 
selring's appointment OKW had entered 



"With the new title of OB SUEDWEST and 
Commander, Army Group C. Details o£ the changes 
in German command in Italy will be found in H. M. 
Smyth, The Sicilian Campaign and the Surrender 
of Italy, a volume now under preparation in this 
series. 

75 MS # C-069a (Blumentritt) ; MS # C-069c 
(Buttlar-Brandenfels); and MS # C-069d (Zimmer- 
mann) . 



formal proposals for the constitution of a 
reserve army group headquarters under 
Rommel earmarked for commitment 
wherever the main Allied invasion should 
come. The new headquarters was formed 
from the staff of Army Group B less vari- 
ous special staff officers and about half of 
the enlisted personnel. The reduced head- 
quarters thus formed was redesignated 
Army Group for Special Employment, 
subordinated directly to OKW and trans- 
ferred temporarily to Munich pending 
the commencement of its new duties. 7 * 

These were outlined in orders of 6 No- 
vember. In preparation for his ultimate 
combat task Rommel was ordered to make 
tours of inspection of the coastal defenses 
of the west. He was to inspect first the de- 
fenses of Denmark and then those of 
Artois (roughly the Kanalkueste); there- 
after he would on order examine the de- 
fense preparations in the Cotentin, the 
Netherlands, and Brittany. In each case 
he was directed to prepare operational 
studies for the employment of forces in 
defense and counterattack. He would ex- 
amine the mobility, concentration, and 
combat readiness of all troops, but espe- 
cially of the reserves. He would determine 
what units might be drawn from un- 
threatened portions of the coast, from re- 
serve or school troops, and from home 
units to build a counterattacking force. 
He would make recommendations on the 
employment of armor in the operational 
zones. 77 



76 OKW/WFSt, KTB 1.1X.-31.XU.43, 17 Oct 43 
et seq. Rommel actually turned over comand in 
Italy on 21 November. See Karteiblatt, Heeresgruppe 
B. OKH/Org.Abt. 

77 Rad, Hitler to OKH, Gen.St.d.H., 6 Nov 43. 
OKH/Org.Abt., Bd. Chefsache 7 .V .43-4 .11.44; cf. 
OKW/WFSt, KTB 1.IX.-31.X11.43, 28 Oct and 6 
Nov 43. 



150 CROSS CHANNEL ATTACK 




FIELD MARSHAL ROMMEL (left) inspecting coastal defenses. 



Hitler seems to have had a number of 
reasons for assigning this mission to the 
Rommel staff. He saw it as a means of se- 
curing effective personal control of the 
all-important battle with the main forces 
of the Western Allies, and probably was 
responsible for the suggestion that the 
Rommel staff be committed directly 
under ORW, bypassing the theater com- 
mand.™ Although OK.W successfully 
argued that the proposal was not feasible 
in view of the smallness of Rommel's staff 
and the rank and importance of the thea- 
ter commanders involved, the later his- 



« OKW/WFSt, KTB I. IX. -31. XI I. 43, 28 Oct 43, 



tory of the Rommel command in France 
suggests that the idea was only scotched, 
not killed. When Rundstedt was informed 
of the new command, OKW was careful 
to point out that it was not intended in 
any way as an abridgment of Rundstedt s 
authority. On the other hand, it was a 
recognition of the increasing burden of 
operational, training, and administrative 
responsibilities that were heaped on OB 
WEST in its multiple role as a defense 
command, an occupying force, a training 
command, and the base for the V-weapon 
war on England. The particular selection 
of Rommel undoubtedly had an addi- 
tional morale motive. For the long-neg- 



THE GERMAN ARMY IN FRANCE, 1940-1943 



151 



lected west garrison troops the appoint- 
ment of a commander with Rommel's 
reputation in combat was a stimulant and 
a dramatization of the new importance 
assigned to the west. Finally, the reserve 
command, considered in context with Di- 
rective 51, expressed a shift in Hitler's 
tactical thinking away from exclusive de- 
pendence on an impregnable wall defense 
toward the traditional German reliance 
on mobile operations. 79 Just how far 
Hitler intended to depart from his earlier 
insistence on a pure fortress defense, in 
which each inch of occupied ground was 
to be held to the last man and the last bul- 
let, is not clear. It is clear and of consider- 
able importance that this directive tended 
in that direction and that it was so inter- 
preted by Rundstedt. Rundstedt was 
thereby encouraged to re-examine ways 
and means of shaking his army loose 
from the concrete of the Atlantic Wall, 
and the question of how the battle for 
France was to be fought was posed again 
with a new urgency. 

German defense preparations in the 
west and the German conduct of opera- 
tions in France can be understood only 
against the background of disagreement 
over tactics among the various command- 
ers involved. In terms of abstract doctrine 
the disagreement was basic and clear-cut: 
it opposed the notion of linear defense to 
defense in depth, static warfare to mobile 
operations, the holding of ground to 
battles of annihilation, the primary de- 
pendence on concrete fortifications to the 
primary dependence on armored striking 
power. In practice, however, disagree- 
ments were blurred without being recon- 
ciled by the fact that few commanders be- 



79 MS # B-672 (BuUlar-Brandenfels) . 



lieved in simple dependence on either al- 
ternative and that, since doctrine was at 
the mercy of limited means, it tended to 
shift in response to the expected avail- 
ability of resources. It is extremely diffi- 
cult therefore to line up the commanders 
on either side of the argument. But, al- 
though the line was neither clear nor 
fixed, it was nonetheless real and signifi- 
cant. Since Hitler and Rundstedt at the 
top of the hierarchy never arrived at 
clear-cut decisions themselves as to the 
basic tactics, shifting and relatively minor 
differences of emphasis in the lower com- 
mand resulted in confusion and unwork- 
able compromises particularly in the dis- 
position and training of troops. The dis- 
cussion of the varying points of view that 
follows can do no more than suggest the 
bases of that confusion without attempt- 
ing to describe in full the stand of any one 
commander. 

The problem of the defense of the west 
was immensely complex and perhaps in- 
soluble. Hitler, at least after the possi- 
bility of defeating Russia had faded in 
1943, looked forward to the forthcoming 
struggle in the west as his last chance to 
gain a decisive victory. On the other hand, 
his obsession with political prestige and 
his consequent reluctance to surrender 
ground voluntarily in order to gain stra- 
tegic or tactical advantage committed him 
to a policy of rigid terrain defense not 
only in France but throughout the occu- 
pied territories. This basic conflict over 
the purpose of defense, whether it was to 
hold ground in perpetuum or gain mili- 
tary advantage for victory at arms was 
never decided. Plans were made, for in- 
stance, to evacuate Norway and Denmark 
in case of an invasion of France. OK.W 
recommended in late 1943 that the troops 



152 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



in Italy be withdrawn to the north to save 
divisions for the main battles to be fought 
in Russia and France. 80 Hitler himself, as 
already noted, talked in his Directive 51 
of the ruthless evacuation of coastal areas 
not under threat of attack to feed the 
main battle area when the time came. But 
when the time did come the evacuation 
was not carried out, probably both be- 
cause Hitler no longer believed it possible 
and because he could not reconcile him- 
self to the surrender of any portion of his 
conquests. The policy of rigid defense, 
meant, in the first instance, an impossible 
policy of defense for its own sake. 

A certain rigidity of defense in the west, 
however, was required by purely military 
considerations. It was essential to hold the 
Allies at arm's length from the critical in- 
dustrial areas of Germany, and it was 
highly desirable to take advantage of the 
strong position afforded by the sea bar- 
rier. These military arguments in favor 
of a stand at the coast line, however, were 
subject to interpretation, and the rigidity 
they seemed to dictate was only relative. 
The decision to build an Atlantic Wall 
was the initial admission that the elastic 
defense principles applied so successfully 
by the Russians in their vast territories 
could not be adopted in the west and that 
basically the German armies in the west 
must stand on a line. There was never any 
debate over the need for making this line 
as strong as possible through the construc- 
tion of a system of permanent and field 
fortifications. The debate concerned only 
how the line was to be held: what de- 



»°OKW/WFSt, KTB 1 JX.-31 .XII.43 , 4 Oct 43. 
This reversed the opinion of a month earlier that, 
even it the line in Italy were shortened, the troops 
thereby relieved would have to be used in the Bal- 
kans. Ibid., 8 Sep 43. 



pendence was to be placed on stopping 
the enemy at the line itself, and where re- 
serves should be located and how em- 
ployed. 

Hitler believed in 1942 and probably 
again in 1944 81 that the line could be 
made so strong that the enemy landing at- 
tempt could be smashed at the water's 
edge within the first twenty-four hours. 
Rundstedt concurred that this was the 
ideal. He pointed out that the experiences 
of Dieppe and Sicily both confirmed that 
the enemy's weakest moment was at the 
time of landing. While still afloat he 
would be without cover and have reduced 
fire power. 82 Later reports on the Salerno 
landings led to the same conclusion 
through the observation that any other de- 
fensive course was foredoomed to failure. 
Generalmajor Viktor Marnitz reported 
that at Salerno the German reserves, al- 
though located near the coast (from three 
to five kilometers inland), had been un- 
able to counterattack across the open ter- 
rain under heavy Allied naval artillery 
fire. 83 Allied air attacks contributed to the 
difficulties of forming counterattacks. 
Strong points along the coast had held 
out well but for the most part the Allies 
had avoided them, landing between them 
and infiltrating inland to seize transporta- 
tion junctions. Allied troops had not been 

81 He did not long hold to the principles o£ coun- 
terattack outlined in Directive 51. See MS # B-672 
(Buttlar-Brandenfels) and below, Ch. VII. 

82 Grundlegende Bemerkungen des Oberbefehls- 
habers West Nr. 27, Auswertung weiterer Erfah- 
rungen, 24 Jul 43, and Nr. 28 Erfahrungen und 
Folgerungen aus den Landungskaempfen von Salerno, 
25 Dec 43. OKW/WFSt, Op. (H), Westen, Grundle- 
gende Bemerkungen 4 .V .42-27 .XII .43 . 

83 Rpt, Auszug aus Bericht Generalmajor v. Mar- 
nitz, appended to Grundlegende Bemerkungen des 
Oberbejehlshabers West Nr. 28, cited n. 82. Marnitz 
was director of fortress engineer courses at Engineer 
School I. 



THE GERMAN ARMY IN FRANCE, 1940-1943 



153 



held up by any kind of natural obstacles; 
on the contrary they had seemed able to 
take advantage of all kinds of unfavorable 
terrain. General Marnitz's recommenda- 
tions were to smash the Allied attack be- 
fore landing by holding the reserves close 
up and withholding coastal artillery fire 
to the last moment. If some troops got 
ashore they would be forced to spread out 
by stubborn resistance in a number of 
small resistance nests. Any of the enemy 
forces that pierced the coastal defenses 
should be counterattacked by local re- 
serves after they were beyond the range of 
naval guns. 

Rundstedt in forwarding this report 
concurred in its contents, but in a later 
communication he made one significant 
addition. Smash the enemy in his boats, 
if possible. If he lands, counterattack im- 
mediately with local reserves. But if, de- 
spite everything, he still succeeds in get- 
ting through the first line of defense, then 
hold him by fire from positions echeloned 
in depth long enough to permit counter- 
attack by corps and army reserves. Coun- 
terattack by purely local reserves could 
be considered part of the concept of static 
defense. Riposte by corps and army re- 
serves introduced the concept of flexible, 
mobile war, particularly when limited 
means made it impossible to achieve both 
an optimum strength on the first line and 
an adequate pool of reserves. 

General der Panzertruppen Leo Frei- 
herr Geyr von Schweppenburg, the ar- 
mored expert in the west, wanted to push 
the mobile tactics thus adumbrated to the 
point of falling back entirely from the 
coast with all mobile units, leaving only 
the static defenses to stave off the enemy 
as long as possible and inflict maximum 
losses. He wanted to seek a decision in the 



interior with a massed armored counter- 
attack. The Luftwaffe, he felt, should not 
be committed in the battle for the 
beaches but saved to cover the counter- 
attack. 84 Sodenstern agreed, with an inter- 
esting variation which he described in re- 
flections jotted down in the summer of 
1943. 85 The relative weakness of German 
forces, he felt, required that they defend 
the coast only long enough to determine 
the center of gravity of the enemy attack. 
Strategic reserves should be assembled on 
both sides of the Seine northwest of Paris 
and on the upper Loire. The area be- 
tween the Seine and Loire would be the 
battlefield. Since Allied air superiority 
would make extensive German troop 
movements impossible, the Allies should 
be compelled to maneuver into the area 
chosen for the battle by means of switch 
lines contrived to canalize the Allied at- 
tack. 

The notion of gambling everything on 
fully mobile defense with massed counter- 
attacks mounted inland was never seri- 
ously entertained. Rundstedt seems gen- 
erally to have conceived of the main battle 
as taking place in the coastal area. He 
vacillated chiefly in the reliance which he 
wanted to put on mobile counterattack 
within that area. To make such an attack 
possible, German forces, of course, had to 
be able to maneuver freely. Salerno and 
Sicily had shown that armor could not 
fight successfully within the range of naval 
artillery. Rundstedt pointed out to OKW 
that armor therefore could not influence 
the battle unless German aircraft, espe- 
cially torpedo planes, could interfere with 



84 MS # B-466 (Geyr von Schweppenburg) . Cf. 
below, Ch. X. 

85 MS # B-276 (Sodenstern) . 



154 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



the firing of Allied warships. 88 In addi- 
tion, German mobility obviously de- 
pended on the quality and quantity of 
equipment and personnel. In his October 
report, Rundstedt admitted that the Ger- 
man divisions in the west had neither the 
men nor the machines to fight in open 
terrain against an enemy so materially 
strong as the Allies were sure to be. The 
conclusion was thus forced that the only 
hope of redressing Allied superiority lay 
in taking the maximum advantage of the 
water barrier. That was how the situation 
looked in October. After the Hitler di- 
rective in the next month, Rundstedt 
modified his view. If the promise to 
strengthen the west meant the provision 
of new troops and more mobile divisions, 
it might be possible to return to the idea 
of mass counterattack. He therefore pro- 
posed the formation, partly on paper, 
partly on the ground, of a central reserve. 
Specifically he suggested earmarking six 
infantry divisions to be withdrawn after 
the Allied landings from coastal zones not 
threatened by attack. Made mobile by ve- 
hicles contributed by each of the armies, 
these divisions would be organized under 
two corps controlled by an army head- 
quarters. Existing panzer and panzer 
grenadier reserves would be commanded 
by a reserve panzer corps and the entire 
force put under the special army group 
headquarters that was being formed 
under Rommel. 87 



° 8 Ltr, OB WEST (la Nr. 696/43) to OKW/WFSt, 
26 Nov 43. Seventh Army, KTB Anlagen, Chefsachen 
2.1UA3-1.VIU.44. 

87 Rad, OB WEST to OKW/WFSt, 14 Nov. 43. Sev- 
enth Army, KTB Anlagen, Chefsachen 2.111.43- 
l.Vlll.44. At the time Rundstedt made this proposal 
he was not sure of getting the reserve army group 
headquarters. If he did not, he expected to employ 
simply an army command. See Order, OB WEST to 



There is no question that the Rund- 
stedt plan considerably extended the ideas 
underlying Directive 51. OKW at once 
objected to the proposal to withdraw en- 
tire divisions from the unthreatened por- 
tions of the coast and suggested instead 
that only regimental Kampfgruppen be 
pulled out in order not to denude any 
section of its defenses. 88 More basic ob- 
jections were raised by Generaloberst 
Hans von Salmuth, who as commander 
of the Fifteenth Army defending the coast 
which the Germans thought most likely to 
be the scene of the major Allied invasion 
attempt occupied a key position in the 
command hierarchy. Salmuth criticized 
Rundstedt's suggestion as contravening 
all the hitherto accepted principles of de- 
fense in the west. It assumed, he said, that 
the Allies would break through the cor- 
don defense and would succeed in estab- 
lishing a bridgehead. If that happened, he 
believed the Allies pouring ashore un- 
hindered would soon establish a superior- 
ity of force that would be tantamount to 
victory. The central reserves would take 
too long to assemble; it would be delayed 
and partially destroyed by Allied air at- 
tack. It was probable therefore that it 
could never be committed in mass and 
that late and piecemeal commitment 
would be ineffective. All reserves, Sal- 
muth believed, should be held as close as 
possible to the coast and should be under 
army control. 89 The main objection to Sal- 
muth's argument, as Rundstedt pointed 

army commanders, Vorbereitung fuer den Kampf, 18 
Nov 43. OKH/OrgAbt., Bd. Chefsachen 1 .V .43- 
4.11.44. In place of the reserve panzer corps a special 
armored staff was later created. See below, Ch. VII. 

88 OKW/WFSt, KTB 1 .IX.-31 .XII .43, 15 Nov 43. 

89 Ltr, Salmuth to OB WEST with personal cover- 
ing letter to Rundstedt, 25 Dec 43. Fifteenth Army, 
KTB Anlagen, Chefsachen 26.X.-27.XII.43. 



THE GERMAN ARMY IN FRANCE, 1940-1943 



155 



out in reply, was that it relied too much 
on a correct guess as to where the Allies 
would strike. For Salmuth this was not a 
very grave objection since he was con- 
vinced that the Allies would make their 
main attack in his sector. Rundstedt 
agreed that the likelihood existed, but 
pointed out that it was by no means a cer- 
tainty. 90 

To Salmuth's argument that the cen- 
tral reserves could not be assembled and 
committed fast enough to be of use in a 
decisive mass counterattack, Rundstedt 
made no reply. His continued advocacy of 
such a reserve implied a belief that if vic- 
tory was to be won the difficulties had to 
be overcome, though precisely how was 
never quite clear. Rundstedt's conviction, 
shared by most of the commanders in the 
west, was that no matter how strong the 
Atlantic Wall was made it could be 
broken. The only relevant questions were 
what dependence to put on the wall and 
how to divide the available forces between 
local and central reserves. The Nine- 
teenth Army commander, Sodenstern, 
argued that the impossibility of establish- 
ing an unbreakable cordon defense viti- 
ated the whole concept of the Atlantic 
Wall since a break-through anywhere 
would make all the fortifications useless. 91 
Rundstedt maintained that a rigid de- 
fense in a series of strong points held to 
the last could so splinter and weaken the 
enemy that his penetrations could easily 
be cleaned up and the whole invasion at- 
tempt thus be defeated before the enemy's 
superior material force could be concen- 
trated and gain momentum. As far as the 
troops defending the coastal strong points 

90 Ltr, Rundstedt to Salmuth, 27 Dec 43. Fifteenth 
Army, KTB Anlagen, Chefsachen 26.X-21.XUAi. 

91 MS # B-276 (Sodenstern) . 



were concerned, there should be no with- 
drawal. Each strong point should be 
fought separately. But this kind of resist- 
ance would only soften up the enemy for 
the decisive counterattacks. To be de- 
cisive they must be mounted in force. "No 
dispersion," said Rundstedt, "no piece- 
meal commitment and no thin water 
soup!" Divisions should be committed in- 
tact to hit the flanks of the enemy pene- 
trations. 92 

General der Artillerie Erich Marcks, 
commander of LXXXIV Corps in Nor- 
mandy, was persuaded by the weakness of 
his forces to embrace the same tactics. He 
told an inspecting officer from OKW in 
January 1944 that even a doubling of his 
present troop strength would make pos- 
sible only a thin screen at the coast which 
could still be torn at any point by the 
enemy. Instead of a wall defense, he there- 
fore proposed the construction of numer- 
ous small field fortifications with some 
depth whose mission was not to stop the 
enemy but to split the attacking forces 
and gain time for the bringing up of Ger- 
man reserves. He felt that a corps reserve 
of armor and mobile infantry could be 
built up behind the coast but near enough 
to be committed within twenty-four 
hours. 93 

OKW generally remained skeptical 
whether, in view of Allied superiority in 
the air and the limited mobility of Ger- 
man units, large-scale counterattacks 
could be mounted. But, on the whole, 
Jodl and his staff concurred that depth of 
defense was desirable. In response to re- 



92 Grundlegender Befehl des Oberbefehlshabers 
West Nr. 20, Grundsaetze fuer die Fuehrung der 
Kuestenverteidigung, 18 Dec 42. OKW/WFSt, Op. 
(H), Westen, Grundlegende Befehle 22.X.42-7 .V .44. 

93 MS # B-672 (Buttlar-Brandenfels) . 



156 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



peated pleas by Rundstedt in the summer 
of 1943 OKW authorized the construc- 
tion, if practicable, of a secondary posi- 
tion still within the coastal zone. 94 In June 
1943 the Commander in Chief West or- 
dered local commanders to reconnoiter 
rear areas for suitable locations for heavy 
weapons in accordance with their own es- 
timate of the situation and enemy inten- 
tions. He also suggested that prepared 
positions for antitank guns and machine 
guns would be of considerable impor- 
tance in delaying the enemy troops that 
might break through the first line of de- 
fense. At the moment there was little pos- 
sibility of actually starting construction. 95 
Nothing was started until the end of Octo- 
ber, when Rundstedt ordered further 
reconnaissance by corps and armies and 
the beginning of field construction. The 
secondary position was to be built with 
maximum flexibility to include prepared 
switch lines and to take in already estab- 
lished airfields, ammunition dumps, and 
shelters for reserves and staffs. Antiair- 
craft guns would be emplaced for ground 
firing and all-around defense. Some 31,- 
000 French laborers were initially used 
on the job. 

At the end of 1943 the discussion of de- 
fense tactics had produced no unequivo- 
cal decision. Rundstedt's own orders with 
their dual emphasis on holding coastal 
positions to the last and at the same time 
building mobile reserves, while in one 
sense perfectly consistent, were neverthe- 

94 Ltrs, OB WEST to OKW/WFSt, 2 Apr 43 and 
27 Jun 43. OKH/Op.Abt., Kuestenschutz Kanal- 
kueste 20. VI .42-1 8. V .44; OKW/WFSt, KTB l.VII.- 
31.VIIl.43, 11 Jul 43. 

95 Grundlegende Bemerkungen des Oberbefehls- 
liabers West Nr. 26, 6 Jun 43. OKW/WFSt, Op. (H), 
Weslcn, Grundlegende Bemerkungen 4 .V .42-21 .XII '.- 
43. 



less subject to interpretation as support- 
ing either primarily static or primarily 
mobile defense. 96 Since the practical prob- 
lem was the allocation of limited time and 
resources, insufficient for the full develop- 
ment of both fortifications and troop 
build-up and training, Rundstedt's pro- 
nouncements actually straddled the issue. 
In the closing months of the year the 
doctrine of decision by counterattack in 
force, though qualified and not unchal- 
lenged, seemed to have achieved general 
acceptance in OB WEST and the appar- 
ent endorsement of OKW and Hitler. The 
outline of the battle as sketched by the 
chief of staff of OB WEST, General Blu- 
mentritt, envisaged the fighting in four 
main stages: first, the fire fight while the 
Allies were still on the water; second, the 
struggle on the beaches; third, the battles 
in the coastal zone between German local 
reserves and Allied units that had pene- 
trated the main line of resistance; and, 
finally, the decisive beachhead battle in 
which OB WEST would commit large 
motorized units to throw the Allies back 
into the sea. 97 

In accord with this outline, Rundstedt 
ordered a winter construction program to 
step up work on the fortifications with 
special attention to casemating coastal ar- 
tillery and antitank guns; at the same 
time, as already noted, he began planning 
for the formation of the central reserve. 
But the latter plans would go awry chiefly 



96 Rundstedt could thus find himself in nearly per- 
fect agreement with both Salmuth and Geyr, whose 
respective tactical concepts were wholly opposed. See 
MS # B-466 (Geyr von Schweppenburg) ; cf. MS 
# B-720 (Generalleutnant Dr. Hans Speidel, CofS, 
Army Group B) . 

97 Ltr, CofS, OB WEST, to subordinate armies, 
10 Jan 44. Seventh Army, KTB Anlagen, Chefsachen 
2.III.43-1.VIII.44. 



THE GERMAN ARMY IN FRANCE, 1940-1943 



157 



because the man slated to command the 
reserves and conduct the battle against 
the invaders was to be Field Marshal 
Rommel. There was scarcely a general in 
the German Army less in sympathy with 
the grandiose scheme of massed counter- 
attacks under the bomb sights of virtually 
unopposed Allied air fleets. Thus at the 



moment when the concept of mobile de- 
fense in the west seemed to enjoy highest 
favor, it was in reality on the point of most 
complete repudiation by a commander 
convinced that it was a dangerous 
fantasy. 98 



98 See below, Ch. VII. 



CHAPTER V 

Overlord Revised 



U.S. Organization and Training 
for the Assault, January 1944 

General Eisenhower arrived in London 
on 14 January 1944 to take up his new 
duties as Supreme Commander, Allied 
Expeditionary Force. With his arrival, the 
whole character and tempo of planning 
and preparing for overlord changed. 
Gone was the basic uncertainty— the sense 
of planning for a more or less probable 
contingency in a more or less indefinite 
future, overlord was now a definite com- 
mitment. A commander at last was 
charged with responsibility for its success 
and authority to make his arrangements 
to insure that success. The twenty weeks 
that remained before the troops were 
loaded in ships for the fateful thrust 
across the Channel were weeks of decision 
when the plans, studies, suggestions, and 
acquired experience of the past three 
years were transformed into the working 
blueprints of action. 

It was a task of complexity and disturb- 
ing size which at times made commanders 
despair that it could be accomplished in 
time. But for the most part the ground- 
work had been solidly laid. By January 
there could be no concern over the avail- 
ability of troops to do the job. Already 
about half of the required U.S. combat 
divisions were in the United Kingdom 
and the arrival in time of the remainder 
was assured. The flow of combat divisions, 
which had been delayed to permit an in- 
tensive build-up of the air forces and serv- 



ice troops, began in the fall of 1943 and 
continued from then until D Day at the 
average rate of about two divisions a 
month. 1 

U.S. corps and army headquarters for 
the control of the initial phases of the in- 
vasion were already established in the 
United Kingdom and the chain of com- 
mand was settled. On 23 October 1943, 
First U.S. Army under Lt. Gen. Omar N. 
Bradley took over operational command 
of American ground forces in the United 
Kingdom. 2 At the same time VII Corps, 
which arrived during the month, was as- 
signed to First Army. Over-all ground 
command for the assault phase had been 
given to 21 Army Group. Early in Janu- 
ary General Paget was replaced as com- 
manding general by Gen. Sir Bernard L. 
Montgomery. 3 General Montgomery ar- 



1 As of 1 January there were 749,298 U.S. troops 
in the United Kingdom including most of eleven 
divisions. The divisions, in order of arrival, were: 
29th, 5th, 101st Airborne, 3d Armored, 28th, 2d, 1st, 
2d Armored, 9th, 82d Airborne, and 8th. The 1st, 2d 
Armored, 9th, and 82d Airborne Divisions had been 
in combat in the Mediterranean. 

2 [Robert W. Coakley] Organization and Com- 
mand in the ETO (The Administrative and Lo- 
gistical History of the ETO: Part II) , MS, I, 276-77. 
Hist Div files. 

3 General Montgomery came to this post with a 
brilliant record that dated back to World War I, in 
which he had been awarded the DSO and been men- 
tioned six times in dispatches. At the beginning of 
World War II he commanded the 3d Division in 
France and, after escaping from Dunkerque, took 
over the 5 Corps. In 1942 and 1943 as commanding 
general of the British Eighth Army in Africa, Egypt, 
Sicily, and Italy, he achieved renown as the man who 
mastered Rommel. 




GENERAL EISENHOWER, Supreme Allied Commander. 



160 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



rived in England on 2 January 1944. He 
had stopped off at Algiers to receive Gen- 
eral Eisenhower's instructions and then at 
Marrakesh to see the Prime Minister, who 
was convalescing there from an attack of 
influenza. His chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Sir 
Francis de Guingand, went ahead and on 
his arrival at once tackled the problem of 
reorganizing the army group staff and re- 
placing most of its key personnel with offi- 
cers from the British Eighth Army. In ad- 
dition he undertook to establish parallel 
U.S. staffs to convert the British army 
group into a temporary combined head- 
quarters which would function as such as 
long as U.S. troops were under its com- 
mand. 4 

U. S. naval organization had also be- 
come pretty well set by the first of the year, 
after passing through many complicated 
command patterns from the time the first 
U.S. naval officers arrived in England as 
observers in 1940. 5 The end product— the 
command for combat— reflected some of 
these past complications. In January Ad- 
miral Harold R. Stark was still the senior 
U.S. naval commander in Europe, with 
the title of Commander of Naval Forces 
in Europe (ComNavEu). Until the fall of 
1943 he exercised administrative com- 
mand over various task forces sent by the 
Commander in Chief of the U.S. Fleet to 
operate in European waters. In addition, 
he commanded certain naval administra- 
tive units in the United Kingdom. On 9 
September 1943 Admiral King ordered 
consolidation of all U.S. naval forces in 
Europe under a new command, the 
Twelfth Fleet, to be headed by Admiral 



4 Interv with de Guingand, 1947. Hist Div files. 

6 Material on naval organization is found in Ad- 
ministrative History of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe, 
1940-1946, MS, pp. 237-47. Hist Div files. 



Stark. But, although this simplified the 
appearance of the command, the fact re- 
mained complicated. At the same time, 
Admiral King directed that a task force 
be formed to control operations and train- 
ing for the cross-Channel assault. This be- 
came Task Force 122 under command of 
Rear Adm. Alan G. Kirk. 6 Operational 
and administrative command thus re- 
mained divided. Two other important 
subordinate commands were formed 
under Twelfth Fleet: the Eleventh Am- 
phibious Force under Rear Adm. John 
L. Hall, and Landing Craft and Bases, 
Europe, which was created in the summer 
of 1943 to receive and control the build- 
up of landing craft for the invasion. The 
commander was Rear Adm. John Wilkes. 7 

Admiral Stark, as ComNavEu, was re- 
sponsible for co-ordinating with ETO- 
USA and COSSAC all U.S. naval prepara- 
tions for the invasion; as commander of 
Twelfth Fleet he was the administrative 
chief responsible for providing the task 
forces under him with facilities for train- 
ing and operations. Admiral Kirk's Task 
Force 122 controlled the training, prep- 
aration, and operations of all U.S. naval 
forces. Under him, Admiral Hall's 
Eleventh Amphibious Force commanded 
U.S. amphibious forces afloat. Command 
of bases and responsibility for support and 
maintenance of forces afloat rested with 
Admiral Wilkes. 

The Allied naval command had been 
established for planning purposes on 5 
May 1943. On 25 October Admiral Little 
was replaced as Commander-in-Chief Al- 

6 Admiral Kirk had been commander of Amphibi- 
ous Force, Atlantic Fleet. 

7 Hall was former commander of the Eighth Am- 
phibious Force in the Mediterranean. Wilkes from 
December 1942 to August 1943 had commanded the 
U.S. cruiser Birmingham. 



162 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



lied Naval Expeditionary Force (AN CXF) 
by Admiral Sir Bertram H. Ramsay. 8 It 
was not until 1 April, however, that Ad- 
miral Ramsay assumed operational con- 
trol of U.S. naval forces and even then his 
command remained formal until the eve 
of the invasion. 9 The principal duty of 
AN CXF in January was still the prepara- 
tion of an Allied naval plan. 

Air force organization was settled in 
January except for the control of strategic 
air. Air Marshal Leigh-Mallory's AEAF 
headquarters, in addition to directing 
preliminary operations against the enemy, 
was working on an over-all air plan for 
the assault. 

The training of troops for the assault 
was never a primary responsibility of the 
theater. It was assumed that divisions 
would arrive in the United Kingdom 
fully schooled in their tasks. The cross- 
Channel attack, however, posed many 
special technical problems for which solu- 
tions could not be worked out at a dis- 
tance. The British had been experiment- 
ing with assault tactics and equipment 
since 1940 through the Combined Oper- 
ations Headquarters. After April 1942 
American officers shared in this work and 
an attempt was made to work out a com- 

8 Ltr, H. N. Morrison to Admiral Ramsay, 4 Nov 
43. SHAEF SGS file 322 (ANCXF) . Admiral Ramsay 
had retired in 1938 after forty-two years in the Royal 
Navy, the last three of which he had served as Chief 
of Staff, Home Fleet. At the outbreak of World War 
II in 1939 he was recalled to active duty as Flag 
Officer Commanding, Dover. While serving in this 
post he organized the naval forces for the withdrawal 
from Dunkerque. Later he helped plan the torch 
operation, commanded a task force in the Sicilian 
invasion, and became British naval commander in 
the Mediterranean. 

9 Ltr, Smith to CinC 21 A Gp, FUSAG, and AEAF, 
6 Apr 43. SHAEF SGS file 322 (ANCXF) . The naval 
command set up was analogous to that of the Allied 
Expeditionary Air Force. See above, Ch. III. 



bined amphibious doctrine specially 
adapted to the conditions of the Channel 
assault. 10 As doctrine and planning de- 
veloped and the American Army grew in 
the United Kingdom, it became impera- 
tive to set up an American training center 
that would both test the new tactical ideas 
and techniques and apply them in the 
training of troops. Negotiations to estab- 
lish such a center had begun in late 1942, 
but the problems in the way were con- 
siderable. During the first six months of 
1943 there were few trainees and fewer 
facilities, as the bulk of U.S. ground 
troops and landing craft continued to be 
absorbed by the Mediterranean theater. 
Moreover, it took time to locate suitable 
training grounds in the crowded island of 
England and to iron out the legal diffi- 
culties of taking over hundreds of pieces 
of private property, including farmlands 
and villages. (The area finally selected, in 
fact, was so small that firing exercises were 
narrowly limited.) In April 1943 the As- 
sault Training Center was activated with 
Lt. Col. Paul W. Thompson in command. 
But it was September before it opened its 
first training courses at Woolacombe. 11 

Nearly all the U.S. troops earmarked 
for the overlord assault underwent some 
training at Colonel Thompson's center, 
although the amount and intensity varied. 
The 29th and 4th Divisions sent all their 
regiments through the course. One regi- 
ment of the 29th, the 116th Infantry, re- 
turned for a refresher course. Out of the 
1st Division only the 16th Infantry took 
the training. But the 1st Division arrived 

10 Rpt, History of American Section, Combined 
Operations Headquarters, 23 Sep 43. Pre-Inv file 289. 

11 [Clifford Jones] neptune: Training, Mounting, 
the Artificial Ports (The Administrative and Lo- 
gistical History of the ETO: Part VI), MS, I, 165, 
168ff. Hist Div files. 



164 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



in England fully battle-tested through 
participation in both the North African 
and Sicilian assaults. The 82d Airborne 
Division, similarly experienced in combat 
in Sicily and Italy, did not attend the cen- 
ter. The 101st Airborne Division, how- 
ever, despite intensive training in the 
United States did send two groups (two 
thousand men in all) for special short 
courses in the technique of assaulting 
fortified positions. 12 

Besides carrying out its primary mis- 
sion of preparing troops for the assaults, 
the Assault Training Center made a vital 
contribution to amphibious doctrine. 
Through experimentation with new 
equipment, combined exercises, close 
liaison with the British, and conferences 
on tactics, Colonel Thompson's staff 
learned as well as taught, and their new 
wisdom not only improved tactical meth- 
ods but in many important ways modified 
tactical concepts. 13 In January 1944, when 
Eisenhower took command, the special- 
ized program of the Assault Training 
Center was in full swing; one division was 
already graduated, another was in train- 
ing. Tactical methods, though still not 
firm in all respects, had at least been ex- 
tensively reviewed and tested. 

All the major problems attendant on 
the assembling, grouping, and training of 
invasion forces had thus been settled. It 
required only time and a few minor re- 
arrangements to ready the troops for the 
attack. The status of planning, however, 
was much less satisfactory. Despite nearly 
three years of study and ten months of 
more or less intensive and specific plan- 
ning for overlord, many of the basic 

vibid., I, 193-96. 

13 For discussion, see below, The neptune Plans: 
Organization and Tactics of the Assault Forces. 



problems still remained to be settled— the 
strength of the assault, for instance, and 
whether it should take place by day or 
by night. 

It was recognized at least as early as 
Casablanca that the only plan worth work- 
ing on was one drawn by the people who 
would ultimately execute it. Hence the 
decision to constitute COSSAC as an 
embryo of a supreme headquarters. Vari- 
ous attempts were then made to confer on 
General Morgan a kind of substitute com- 
mander's authority. But the device did 
not work. After the publication of the 
overlord outline plan in July 1943, 
COSSAC found it impossible to make any 
further substantial contribution to over- 
lord tactical planning for reasons that 
have been described. General Eisenhower, 
General Montgomery, and their staffs, as 
well as the Allied naval and air command- 
ers, found in January that as far as plans 
were concerned they had to go back and 
pick up where COSSAC left off in July. 
They had, however, an accumulated mass 
of special studies which greatly facilitated 
the problems of revising the master plan 
and preparing detailed unit field orders. 

The Anvil— Overlord Debate 

It was clear to planners after the 
Quebec Conference that the overlord 
plan, as written by COSSAC in July 1943, 
would have to be revised to strengthen the 
assault. Although COSSAC examined 
some of the implications both of adding 
to the weight of the attack and of broad- 
ening the front, the planners came to no 
conclusion. General Morgan could not 
have rewritten the plan in any case, since 
he still functioned under the May direc- 
tive of the Combined Chiefs of Staff which 



OVERLORD REVISED 



165 



limited his resources in men and ship- 
ping. He could not secure additional re- 
sources primarily because he could not 
exercise the necessary command au- 
thority. 

When COSSAC received the Supreme 
Commander and emerged from its plan- 
ning staff chrysalis to become the Supreme 
Allied Headquarters, its formal written 
plan for the invasion was still the July out- 
line plan. But informally the staff had 
long been thinking in terms of a larger 
assault. If landing craft were available, 
planners hoped to be able to attack with 
four divisions and have one more division 
in floating reserve. Still this was only a 
hope—not a plan. The process of produc- 
ing a new plan to realize the hope for a 
strong assault began with the arrival in 
London of General Montgomery and 
General Eisenhower's chief of staff, Maj. 
Gen. Walter Bedell Smith. 14 

On 3 January 1944 Generals Mont- 
gomery and Smith were formally briefed 
on the COSSAC overlord plan by Brig. 
Kenneth McLean, the chief COSSAC 
Army planner. After the presentation, 
General Montgomery criticized the nar- 
row front of the assault and spoke of carry- 
ing out simultaneous assaults in Brittany, 
around Dieppe, and on the west coast of 
the Cotentin. He also criticized planning 
figures on the capacity of available land- 

14 General Smith at the outbreak of war was serv- 
ing as Secretary, General Staff of the War Depart- 
ment. In February 1942 he became secretary to the 
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as American secre- 
tary of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. Appointed as 
General Eisenhower's chief of staff in September 
1942, he served in this position in Allied Force Head- 
quarters until the end of 1943. At that time he be- 
came SHAEF chief of staff, replacing General Mor- 
gan who became deputy chief of staff. General 
Eisenhower had been ordered to the United States 
for consultations and had sent Smith to London. 



ing craft. The meeting broke up without 
decision. In the days following General 
Montgomery's first sweeping protest 
against the narrow restrictions placed on 
the original plan, discussion settled down 
to suggestions that the planned invasion 
front be extended from twenty-five miles 
to about forty miles and that five divisions 
be used in the assault. 15 The extended 
front was to run from les Dunes de Varre- 
ville on the east coast of the Cotentin to 
Cabourg (east of the Orne River). Two 
armies should be employed: the First 
U.S. Army on the right and the Second 
British Army on the left with an inter- 
army boundary approximately at Bay- 
eux. 16 

General Montgomery insisted that it 
was essential in order to avoid confusion 
of administration and supply that armies 
and corps go in on their own fronts and 
not through bridgeheads established by 
other units. 17 Other reasons for broaden- 
ing the front were that it would be harder 
for the enemy to define and locate the 
limits of the attack and conversely easier 



15 Interv, F. C. Pogue with Maj Gen Kenneth R. 
McLean, 11-13 Mar 47. McLean said flatly that 
Montgomery's decision was to use a five-division 
front. Compare, however, notes by Lt. Col. H. Main- 
ward (military assistant to Montgomery) on a meet- 
ing of Army commanders, 7 January 1944, where 
the decision reported was to try for an eight-brigade 
assault for four divisions each on a two-brigade 
front. Naval representatives said that, although eight 
brigades were the maximum that could be landed, 
they could be drawn from five divisions rather than 
four, if the Army preferred. Documents in Hist Div 
files. 

16 Mainward, notes cited n. 15. Bayeux was to be 
inclusive to the U.S. Army. 

17 This had been pointed out much earlier as one 
of the important lessons from torch. The Eastern 
Assault Force G-4 wrote: "It was fundamental to 
avoid intermingling of British and American Supply 
systems." See Lessons from Operation torch, 16 Dec 
42. Pre-Inv file 465. 



166 



CROSS-CHANNEL. ATTACK 



for the Allies to break out of the initial 
bridgehead. A wider frontage would give 
the Allies a larger number of vehicle exits 
from the beachhead and so facilitate the 
penetration inland and subsequent build- 
up. Finally a landing west of the Vire 
estuary would facilitate the early capture 
of Cherbourg, on which General Mont- 
gomery placed even greater stress than 
COSSAC, principally because he was sus- 
picious of the value of the untried artifi- 
cial ports. 18 

Details of tactical dispositions and ob- 
jectives were not examined at this point. 
Even the question of whether to assault 
the beaches of the east Cotentin was ap- 
parently unsettled. What General Mont- 
gomery did achieve— and what was most 
important at that time to achieve— was to 
press, as a commander, for a decision that 
the assault be strengthened. He said in 
effect, "Give me five divisions or get some- 
one else to command." 18 Of the COSSAC 
principal staff officers none agreed entirely 
with Montgomery's proposals. General 
Morgan, General McLean, and General 
Barker had always wanted the greater 
weight in the assault, but still questioned 
the soundness of expanding the front. 
Maj. Gen. Charles A. West, G-3, opposed 
any expansion, because he believed it 
would only spread thin the available 
forces. 20 The naval and air staffs had evi- 

18 Notes for the Commander-in-Chief's Meeting 
with the Supreme Commander on Friday 21st Janu- 
ary 1944. Copy furnished by British Cabinet Office 
Hist Sec. Hist Div files. 

19 Gen McLean's interpretation. See Interv cited 
n. 15. Eisenhower has said that in December 1943, 
he instructed both General Montgomery and Gen- 
eral Smith to "seek for an intensification of effort to 
increase troop lift in Overlord. . . ." Cbl, Eisenhower 
to Marshall, 8 Feb 44. SHAEF SGS file 381 I (Over- 
lord-Anvil) . 

20 Interv with McLean; Interv, F. C. Pogue with 
Gen West, 19 Feb 47. Hist Div files. 



dent technical objections since the ef- 
fectiveness of their support and prepara- 
tion was directly proportionate to the con- 
centration of the ground attack. Most of 
the COSSAC staff, whether or not they 
agreed with General Montgomery, felt 
immense relief that the matter was at last 
being brought to a head. 21 Planning was 
on solid ground again and now could 
move forward. Planners were ordered 
to go ahead with the revised plan to em- 
ploy one airborne and five seaborne 
divisions in the assault on the assumption 
that the necessary additional resources in 
shipping and air transport would be forth- 
coming. 

Montgomery and Smith then tackled 
the problem of getting the required land- 
ing craft. The most obvious source was the 
Mediterranean theater. But withdrawal 
from the Mediterranean would necessi- 
tate the cancellation of the anvil assault 
on southern France. One of General 
Eisenhower's last jobs as Commander in 
Chief of the Mediterranean theater had 
been the drafting of a plan for a two- or 
three-division anvil to coincide with 
overlord and so constitute a concentric 
offensive against the enemy forces in 
France. 22 That plan, it will be remem- 
bered, was developed during December in 
compliance with the directive of the Com- 
bined Chiefs of Staff issued at Cairo after 
the meeting with the Russians. 

On 5 January General Smith cabled 
General Eisenhower in Washington to 
report Montgomery's argument for a 



21 Interv with McLean. 

22 Eisenhower preferred a three-division assault, 
but made alternative plans to employ only two di- 
visions in case the additional resources were not 
available. The three-division plan, actually not feasi- 
ble, was dropped from reckoning in the later debate. 



OVERLORD REVISED 



167 



stronger and broader overlord assault. 23 
"Additional lift," he said, "can only be 
obtained at the expense of anvil. . . . 
Montgomery is insistent on the immedi- 
ate recommendation to abandon anvil 
except as a threat previously agreed upon 
by the COSSAC and AFHQ staffs before 
the reinforcement in landing craft was de- 
cided upon at the Cairo Conference." 
Smith added that, although he had re- 
fused to make such a recommendation 
without General Eisenhower's "personal 
approval," he nevertheless agreed with it. 
He felt that anvil as a one-division threat 
would be just as effective as the contem- 
plated three-division assault. In this Gen- 
eral Morgan and the bulk of the planners 
in England concurred. 24 Morgan, like 
most of the planners, believed the anvil 
assault, as planned, was so remote from 
the overlord area and from any military 
objectives vital to the Germans that the 
enemy would not find it worth while to 
divert more than two or three divisions 
from the main battle in the north in order 
to cope with it. The same diversion, he 
thought, could be achieved by a threat re- 
quiring amphibious lift for only one divi- 
sion. Eisenhower agreed that "overlord 
must be more broadly based" but he did 
not think anvil as a threat would be as ef- 
fective as the operation itself. 25 

Pending the outcome of the debate thus 
initiated, planners proceeded with an ex- 
amination of the additional resources 

23 Cbl, Smith to Eisenhower, 5 Jan 44. Eisenhower 
Personal Files. See Bibliographical Note. Montgom- 
ery added his personal appeal when he cabled on 10 
January, "Will you hurl yourself into the contest 
and what we want, get for us." SHAEF SGS file 560 
II. 

24 COSSAC (44) 5, Operation 'anvil,' 6 Jan 44. 
SHAEF SGS file 370.2/2 I. 

25 Cbl, Eisenhower to Smith, 6 Jan 44. Eisenhower 
Personal Files. 



needed for the "Montgomery plan" and 
the implications of finding them. 26 To get 
the landing craft they estimated it would 
be necessary to return half of the two-di- 
vision anvil lift to the United Kingdom. 
In addition the overlord target date 
would have to be postponed from 1 May 
to 1 June in order to secure an additional 
month's production, and the number of 
vehicles per assault division would need 
to be cut to 2,500. 27 The broadened as- 
sault front would also increase the fighter 
plane commitment by eight squadrons. 
To lift a complete airborne division in- 
stead of the two-thirds originally planned 
would necessitate finding 200 more trans- 
port aircraft. 28 

The bill for the principal types of land- 
ing craft— as always the critical commod- 
ity—included an additional 72 LCI (L) 's, 
47 LST's, and 144 LCT's. 29 The bill was 
submitted to the Combined Chiefs of 
Staff by General Eisenhower a week after 
he arrived in London. He was anxious 
that it be met, if possible, without inter- 
fering with anvil and indicated his will- 
ingness to postpone overlord until after 
1 June even though that meant the loss 

26 The "Montgomery plan" was a convenient ap- 
pellation used by General Morgan and others at the 
time. See Ltr, Morgan to COSSAC G-4, 13 Jan 44. 
SHAEF SGS file 800.1 I. It should not be taken to 
indicate, however, that the idea of an expanded as- 
sault was uniquely Montgomery's. 

27 Former calculations had varied, but all exceeded 
3,000. See above, Ch. II. 

28 COSSAC (44) 9, Reply to Joint Planning Staff 
Questionnaire (COS (44) 11 (O) ) On Implications 
of Proposed Modification of Operation 'Anvil,' 8 
Jan 44. SHAEF SGS file 370.2/2 I. 

29 The other requirements: 1 LSH (headquarters 
ship), 6 LSI (L)'s or APA's, all carrying a full com- 
plement of LCA's or LCVP's (British and U.S. ship- 
to-shore ferrying craft respectively) , and 64 motor 
vehicle cargo ships. These requirements could all 
be met with relative ease and therefore do not figure 
in the struggle for adequate assault lift. 



168 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



of a month of good campaigning weather. 
The postponement was seconded by the 
British Chiefs of Staff, and agreed to by 
the U. S. Joint Chiefs of Staff on 31 Janu- 
ary. Besides insuring extra landing craft, 
the later date would increase the chances 
of favorable weather on the Russian front 
and thus make it possible for more closely 
co-ordinated action between the Allies. 30 
The anvil question was not to be re- 
solved so easily. On the contrary the issue 
sharpened and the differences of opinion 
intensified. In early January 1944 when 
the British Chiefs of Staff first debated the 
cancellation of anvil, both Air Marshal 
Portal, Chief of Air Staff, and Admiral 
Sir Andrew B. Cunningham, First Sea 
Lord, recommended the mounting of a 
two-division anvil as a useful diversion 
to overlord. 31 On 4 February, the Prime 
Minister bluntly stated that anvil and 
overlord were not strategically inter- 
woven because of the great distance (500 
miles) of rugged country between them 
and the defensive power of modern weap- 
ons. He therefore doubted the value of a 
diversionary landing in southern France, 
regardless of the available resources. The 
Chiefs of Staff had then come to share his 
doubts. 32 Less than two weeks later a War 



80 Various cables in SHAEF SGS file 381 I (Over- 
lord-Anvil) . 

31 COS (44) 5th Mtg (O) , 7 Jan 44. SHAEF SGS 
file 370.2/2 I. Admiral Cunningham, who replaced 
Admiral Pound as First Sea Lord in October 1943, 
had entered the Royal Navy in 1898 and participated 
in World War I. As Commander-in-Chief, Mediter- 
ranean, between 1939 and 1942, he directed opera- 
tions against the Italian Fleet at Taranto and Mata- 
pan and evacuated the British Army from Greece. 
After heading the Admiralty delegation in Washing- 
ton in 1942, Cunningham was made Naval Com- 
mander-in-Chief, Expeditionary Force, North Africa. 

32 COS (44) 35th Mtg (O) , 4 Feb 44 with Annex, 
Minute to the Prime Minister from Gen Ismay. 



Department representative in London 
could say, in reference to the anvil-over- 
lord debate, that he had met the "cus- 
tomary attitude on the part of British 
planners." He found them maintaining 
that overlord was the only operation 
"that will pay us dividends," and that 
"anvil might be an operation in the Mar- 
shalls" for all the connection it had with 
overlord. 33 

As the British thus developed increas- 
ing hostility to the southern France in- 
vasion, the U.S. Chiefs of Staff reaffirmed 
an uncompromising stand that anvil was 
required "to make effective use" of the 
French and U.S. divisions in the Mediter- 
ranean and to draw German divisions 
away from northern France. 3 * The most 
a threat could do, they thought, would be 
to contain the enemy divisions already 
deployed in the anvil area. Furthermore, 
they recalled that they were committed to 
the southern France assault by agreement 
with Marshal Stalin at Tehran. In brief, 
the U.S. point of view (shared by General 
Eisenhower) was that anvil and over- 
lord were parts of a single operation, and 
that it was unsound to cancel one part for 
the ostensible purpose of strengthening 
the other. 

"Judging from the discussion and dif- 
ferences of opinion at the present time," 
General Marshall wrote to Eisenhower in 
February, "the British and American 
Chiefs of Staff seemed to have completely 
reversed themselves and we have become 
Mediterraneanites and they heavily pro- 



SHAEF SGS file 370.2/2 I; cf. CCS 465/4, Firm 
Recommendations with Regard to Operations "An- 
vil" and "Overlord," 4 Feb 44. 

8"Cbl, Hull (OPD) to Handy, 15 Feb 44. SHAEF 
SGS file 560 II. 

3 * CCS 465/3, 31 Jan 44. 



OVERLORD REVISED 



169 



overlord." 35 As Marshall was well aware, 
no reversal in opinion had in fact oc- 
curred. What had happened was that Al- 
lied plans for the battle in Italy had once 
again bogged down before unexpectedly 
heavy enemy opposition. The British, in 
asking the cancellation of anvil, were 
thinking at least as much of the need for 
additional resources with which to prose- 
cute the Italian campaign as they were of 
diverting landing craft to strengthen 
overlord. On 22 January, U.S. VI Corps 
units had landed at Anzio. The landing 
behind the enemy lines facing the Fifth 
Army was designed to force the Germans 
to pull out and leave the road to Rome 
open. Instead of pulling out, the Germans 
held the Fifth Army attack at the Gustav 
Line and counterattacked the beachhead. 
The beachhead was successfully defended 
but it soon became apparent that no quick 
link-up with the main armies was going to 
be possible. 36 The British had concluded 
early in February that the Germans meant 
to fight it out in central Italy and they saw 
this development as altering the Allied 
strategic decisions made at Tehran. They 
thought General Alexander, commander 
of 15 Army Group, controlling the 
ground forces in Italy, would need at 
least some of the troops earmarked for 
anvil and that the amphibious lift for one 
division should be reserved for his use for 
possible new operations similar to the 
Anzio "end run." The British Chiefs of 
Staff declared: "Germany ... is now ap- 
parently playing our game [of tying up 
German forces in the Mediterranean] 



35 Cbl, Marshall to Eisenhower, 7 Feb 44. SHAEF 
SGS file 381 I (Overlord-Anvil) . 

36 The attack toward Cisterna on 28-29 January 
failed. Thereafter the Allied forces at Anzio remained 
on the defensive until May. 



and we must do all we can to pin down her 
forces and commit them still further. . . . 
We have no choice but to prosecute the 
Italian Campaign with vigor. . . ." 37 

The U.S. Joint Chiefs had no quarrel 
with the determination to prosecute the 
Italian campaign. Again the issue was to 
what extent strategic decisions and plan- 
ning should be suspended to await battle 
developments. General Marshall's view 
was that planning and preparations 
should proceed for anvil but that, if by 
April the Allies had still not been able to 
establish themselves north of Rome, then 
anvil should be abandoned. If, on the 
other hand, anvil were called off at once, 
then there would be no possibility of 
mounting it in the spring. 38 

Early in February it became apparent 
to the Combined Chiefs of Staff that their 
differences could not be resolved by ex- 
change of cables. The U.S. Chiefs of Staff 
therefore delegated their authority to 
General Eisenhower to carry on discus- 
sions with the British and sent to London 
Maj. Gen. John E. Hull and Rear Adm. 
Charles M. Cooke, Jr., with planners from 
the War Department to act as advisers. 
Eisenhower found himself actually on a 
middle ground between the War Depart- 
ment and British staff views. He agreed 
with the War Department's estimate of 
the importance of the southern France di- 
version, but he was closer to the planning 
difficulties of overlord and therefore 
more dubious as to the feasibility of 
anvil. 39 



37 CCS 465/4; Minute, Ismay for the Prime Min- 
ister, cited n. 32. 

38 Cbl, Hull to Handy, cited n. 33; CCS 465/10, 21 
Feb 44. 

39 See, for instance, Cbl, Eisenhower to Marshall, 
6 Feb 44. SHAEF SGS file 381 I (Overlord-Anvil). 



170 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



During February the SHAEF staff 
struggled to devise an acceptable com- 
promise. The possibility of compromise 
hinged, in the first instance, on finding 
enough landing craft for a five-division 
overlord assault. Lift for four seaborne 
divisions and one airborne was promised 
by the War Department. The problem 
was to get additional lift not only for the 
fifth assault division but also for four ar- 
mored brigades (or the equivalent), five 
regiments of self-propelled field artillery, 
shore groups, air force units, naval per- 
sonnel, and two-thirds of a follow-up di- 
vision which planners figured had to be 
carried in landing craft, tactically loaded, 
for immediate employment on landing. 
The rest of the follow-up (one and one- 
third divisions) would be carried in ship- 
ping and would therefore not be opera- 
tionally available until D plus 2. Assault 
forces requiring simultaneous loading 
consisted of a total of 174,320 men and 
20,018 vehicles. These figures included a 
large number of nondivisional troops 
equivalent in personnel and vehicular 
strength to between two and three divi- 
sions. 40 

As the result of conferences at Norfolk 
House (SHEAF headquarters) during 
the week of 13 February, a compromise 
shipping plan was worked out. SHAEF 
first proposed to reduce the current plan- 
ning allocation by one LSI(H), 48 LST's, 
and 51 LCI(L)'s with a resulting loss of 
lift for 21,560 men and 2,520 vehicles. 
This loss would then be made up by over- 
loading transports (APA's), carrying ve- 



40 Various cables between SHAEF and WD 5-9 
Feb 44. SHAEF SGS file 560 II. A divisional slice for 
the assault at this time was figured at 24,000 men and 
2,500 vehicles (of which 1,450 were organic) . See 
CCS 465/7, 8 Feb 44. 



hides in the APA's, using AKA's (cargo 
ships) in the initial lift, and finding (pre- 
sumably from new production) an addi- 
tional 27 LCT's. This plan was subse- 
quently revised to exchange the 6 AKA's 
with the Mediterranean theater for 20 
LST's and 21 LCI (L)'s, on the grounds 
that the large cargo vessels could more 
easily be used in the calmer southern 
waters. The exchange would still leave an 
estimated two-division lift for anvil al- 
though it was doubtful whether Gen. Sir 
Henry Maitland Wilson (Commander-in- 
Chief Mediterranean) would accept the 
loss of tactical flexibility which use of the 
AKA's involved. 41 The SHAEF compro- 
mise still left a shortage of about fifteen 
LST's. General Eisenhower requested al- 
location of at least seven more LST's from 
U.S. production. The remainder of the 
deficit would have to be made up by in- 
creased loading of LST's on the third tide 
(morning of D plus 1) and increased 
seviceability. 

The serviceability rate of landing craft 
—or, in other words, the percentage of 
craft on hand which at any given date 
would be operationally available— was al- 
ways a planning figure to conjure with. So 
narrow were the planning margins that a 
difference of 5 percent in the estimates of 
serviceability might mean the difference 
between adequate and inadequate lift for 
the assault. The serviceability rate was 
contingent chiefly on repair facilities and 
the stock of spare parts— both of which 
were critically limited in the United 
Kingdom. 42 COSSAC in Outline over- 



41 Memo by First Sea Lord, Landing Ships and 
Craft for "Overlord," incl to Ltr, Hollis to COSSAC, 
21 Feb 44. SHAEF G-3 file GCT 451-94-1 Ops A. 

42 See, for instance, Cbl, McCloy to Forrestal, 20 
Apr 44. SHAEF SGS file 560 II. 



OVERLORD REVISED 



171 



lord had planned on an average service- 
ability rate of 85 percent for all craft and 
90 percent for ships. 43 These figures were 
substantially approved at the Quebec 
Conference. On advice of U.S. naval plan- 
ners, however, the rate for U.S. craft was 
raised in January to 95 percent for LST's 
and 90 percent for LCT's. The British in- 
sisted on retention of the lower COSSAC 
figures. SHAEF accepted both estimates 
and distinguished in planning between 
U.S. and British craft, allowing the serv- 
iceability rate set by each country. 44 

The SHAEF shipping compromise was 
severely criticized by planners of 2 1 Army 
Group, mainly on the grounds that 
SHAEF considered the problem of pro- 
viding lift only from a logistical and not 
from a tactical point of view. For example, 
they pointed out that SHAEF had not 
shown separately the Commando-Ranger 
lift for special assault missions against for- 
tified positions. This separation was im- 
portant, the army group planners argued, 
because there could be no question of 
loading to full capacity the LSI's carrying 
Commandos, and of course the excess ca- 
pacity could not be used for lift of other 
assault troops. The SHAEF proposals, by 
pushing the loading of shipping toward 
the full theoretical capacity of the vessels, 
sacrificed flexibility, particularly in that 
they prevented the preloading in craft of 
adequate reserves. Army group thought it 

43 Ltr, Gen Brownjohn to Morgan, 29 Jul 43. 
SHAEF SGS file 800.1 I. 

44 Special Meeting Held in Room 126, Norfolk 
House, 17 Feb 44. SHAEF SGS file 381 I (Overlord- 
Anvil) . Both figures actually proved pessimistic. The 
assault forces used 4,266 landing ships and craft, 
which represented 99.3 percent of all U.S. vessels on 
hand and 97.6 percent of all English vessels. See 
Report by Allied Naval Commander-in-Chief Ex- 
peditionary Force on Operation neptune (London, 
1944) , I, 8, 128. 



extremely important that reserve units for 
the assault waves be tactically loaded in 
craft so that their employment would not 
be affected by losses or time delays of the 
LCA (ship-to-shore) craft used in the 
initial assault. By increasing the per- 
sonnel lift on the first tide of the assault 
without any corresponding vehicle in- 
crease, the SHAEF proposal either would 
land men who could not proceed with 
their task until their vehicles arrived, thus 
causing congestion on the beaches, or 
would compel half-loaded personnel ships 
to wait offshore, thus exposing both ships 
and men to unjustifiable risks. 45 

The validity of these objections was 
fully conceded by General Eisenhower, 
but he considered the sacrifices and risks 
worth accepting in order to permit the 
simultaneous diversionary attack on 
southern France. Although at first 
strongly opposed, General Montgomery 
at last agreed and the proposals were sub- 
mitted to the British Chiefs of Staff. 46 The 
Chiefs of Staff disapproved the compro- 
mise on the grounds, first, that it skimped 
both anvil and overlord and, second, 
that the slow progress of the Italian cam- 
paign made the possibility of providing 
the necessary build-up forces for anvil "so 
remote as to be negligible." 47 Employ- 
ment, as planned, of ten divisions in 
southern France, General Brooke pointed 
out, would leave only twenty divisions to 

45 Memorandum on Implications of the SHAEF 
Proposal to Reduce the Allocation of Landing Ships 
and Landing Craft, 17 Feb 44. SHAEF SGS file 381 I 
(Overlord-Anvil) . 

46 Montgomery's opposition was voiced in a letter 
inclosing staff comments on the 17 February memo 
cited in note 45. He reversed himself at SCAEF 5th 
Mtg, 18 Feb 44. SHAEF SGC file 381 I (Overlord- 
Anvil) . 

47 Minute, Ismay to Prime Minister, 19 Feb 44. 
SHAEF SGS file 381 I (Overlord-Anvil) . 



172 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



fight the critical battle of Italy and to meet 
"other commitments which might arise 
in the Mediterranean." 48 

Eisenhower left the meeting at which 
this discussion took place, feeling that the 
chances of carrying out anvil were slim. 49 
Nevertheless he continued to argue for a 
compromise that would save the southern 
France assault as long as there was any 
reasonable prospect that it might be 
feasible. On 22 February he reached 
agreement with the British that Italy must 
have overriding priority over all present 
and future operations in the Mediter- 
ranean, but, subject to that priority, al- 
ternative plans would be prepared for am- 
phibious operations to assist overlord, 
the first alternative being anvil on the ap- 
proximate scale and date originally 
planned. The Commander in Chief Medi- 
terranean was to release 20 LST's and 21 
LCI(L)'s to overlord in exchange for 6 
ARA's, the craft to sail for the United 
Kingdom in April. All these arrange- 
ments, finally, would be reviewed on 20 
March. If at that time it was decided that 
anvil could not be mounted, the lift in 
the Mediterranean in excess of that 
needed for one division would be with- 
drawn for use in overlord. 50 This com- 
promise was agreed to by the Joint Chiefs 
of Staff, the President, and the Prime Min- 
ister. 51 

The decision held only about long 
enough to be written down. Eisenhower, 
more and more convinced that anvil 



18 COS (44) 53d Mtg (O) , 19 Feb 44. 

« Cbl, Eisenhower to Marshall, 19 Feb 44. SHAEF 
SGS file 381 I (Overlord-Anvil) . 

50 Cbl, 23 Feb 44, reproduced as CCS 465/11, 24 Feb 
44. 

61 Cbl, CCS to SHAEF, 26 Feb 44. SHAEF SGS file 
381 I (Overlord-Anvil); cf. CCS 465/11 and CCS 
147th Mtg, 27 Feb 44. 



would not take place, became equally con- 
vinced that it would be dangerous to al- 
low planning for overlord to continue 
unsettled because of the uncertainty of 
getting enough landing craft. On 26 Feb- 
ruary, he considered cabling General 
Marshall "his view that anvil was impos- 
sible" in order to force a decision to re- 
lease anvil landing craft for overlord. 52 

Two days later, Generals Wilson and 
Alexander in the Mediterranean cabled 
their concern over the difficulties at 
Anzio, stressed the general shortage of 
LST's in the theater, and specifically 
asked that certain proposed transfers of 
craft to the United Kingdom be held up. 63 
The British Chiefs of Staff reacted to the 
appeal with a blanket recommendation 
that all LST's then in the Mediterranean 
be retained there and that 26 LST's (with 
26 LCT's as deck loads) scheduled for 
shipment to the Mediterranean be di- 
verted to the United Kingdom. 54 This pro- 
posal was rejected both by General Wil- 
son and by the U.S. Chiefs of Staff. 

The debate continued; the uncertainty 
continued; and the danger of stinting the 
overlord allocation of landing craft be- 
came daily more threatening. General 
Eisenhower pressed for a decision. Land- 
ing craft for overlord were so closely 
figured that the Supreme Commander 

52 SCAEF 6th Mtg, 26 Feb 44. SHAEF SGS file 
387/11 (Supreme Commander's Conferences). Gen- 
eral Smith demurred despite his previous advocacy 
that anvil be abandoned. Smith said he "felt that 
there was little necessity for sending this message 
[suggested by Eisenhower], and feared that it woulu 
give the impression of changing our minds too 
quickly." Cf. below, n. 55. 

53 Cbls in SHAEF SGS file 381 I (Overlord-Anvil) . 

"Cbl, COS to JSM, 29 Feb 44. SHAEF SGS file 
381 I (Overlord-Anvil). These were craft which by 
decision at Cairo were allocated to the Mediter- 
ranean from production previously earmarked for 
the Pacific. See above, Ch. III. 



OVERLORD REVISED 



173 



viewed with deep concern the loss of four 
or five LST's in the United Kingdom and 
Mediterranean during the first few days 
of March. He pointed out to General 
Marshall that SHAEF had not only estab- 
lished minimum landing craft require- 
ments but "went short 15 LST's in the 
interest of keeping anvil alive." Now it 
had even less than its minimum require- 
ments. "The uncertainty," he added, "is 
having a marked effect on everyone re- 
sponsible for planning and executing op- 
eration overlord." 55 

To the Joint Chiefs of Staff it became 
increasingly apparent during March that 
there would be no break in the battle for 
Italy that would permit an advance on 
Rome before the end of the month. 
anvil was dying. Still there seemed sound 
strategic reasons for trying to keep it 
alive. General Marshall did not agree with 
the British that involvement in Italy 
would necessarily serve the purpose of 
holding enemy divisions away from the 
overlord battle. He quoted General 
Alexander's opinion that the Germans, 
using only six to eight divisions in the 
peninsula, could materially delay him. 
The enemy would still have some ten to 
fifteen divisions in Italy which he could 
shift to meet the Allied attack in north- 
ern France, "not to mention those [divi- 
sions] from Southern France and else- 
where." 56 

55 Cbl, Eisenhower to Marshall, 9 Mar 44. SHAEF 
SGS file 381 I (Overlord-Anvil). He added that the 
Italian situation was not developing in a way to in- 
crease the likelihood of anvil and that the demands 
of ovfrlord on the other hand were making it in- 
evitable to draw on anvil resources. "This being the 
case, I think it is the gravest possible mistake to 
allow demands for anvil to militate against the main 
effort even in the matter of time and certainty of 
planning." 

56 Cbl, Marshall to Eisenhower, 16 Mar 44. Eisen- 
hower Personal Files. 



On 21 March General Eisenhower rec- 
ommended the cancellation of anvil as an 
attack timed to coincide with overlord. 57 
This recommendation was accepted and 
the reallocation of landing craft from the 
Mediterranean was ordered. The Gor- 
dian knot, as far as overlord planning 
was concerned, was cut. overlord was at 
last assured landing craft in numbers at 
least adequate for the job to be done, al- 
though there would still be few to spare. 68 

The Neptune Plans 

The firm decision to expand the as- 
sault resulted in the drafting of a new out- 
line plan: the neptune Initial Joint Plan, 
published on 1 February 1944 by Gen- 
eral Montgomery, Admiral Ramsay, and 
Air Marshall Leigh-Mallory. The Initial 

57 Cbl, Eisenhower to Marshall, 21 Mar 44. SHAEF 
SGS file 381 I (Overlord-Anvil) . Eisenhower said 
nothing in this message about a later mounting of 
anvil. He recommended pressing offensive opera- 
tions in the Mediterranean "initially in Italy and 
extending from there into France as rapidly as we 
can." Specifically he suggested that the Supreme 
Allied Commander in the Mediterranean theater be 
directed to assist overlord by containing the maxi- 
mum number of enemy forces and to do this by "the 
highest possible tempo of offensive action." Mediter- 
ranean plans, he suggested, should include "the 
mounting of a positive threat against the south of 
France or the Ligurian coast with provision for tak- 
ing immediate advantage of rankin [enemy collapse] 
conditions should they occur." 

58 The anvil problem, however, was far from set- 
tled. The U.S. Chiefs of Staff had yielded only on 
the timing; they still wanted the assault mounted 
at a later date. The British were equally insistent 
on outright cancellation. The debate continued un- 
til 1 July when the Prime Minister at last conceded 
the U.S. argument (though he remained uncon- 
vinced) . The southern France invasion, scheduled 
at that time for 15 July, was subsequently postponed 
and at last mounted on 15 August under the code 
name dragoon. Details of the later anvil debate will 
be found in F. C. Pogue, The Supreme Command, 
and Major J. D. T. Hamilton, Southern France and 
Alsace, volumes now under preparation in this series. 



174 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



Joint Plan called itself an "executive in- 
strument" directing "subordinate plan- 
ning and its implementation." Extremely 
detailed at some points and sketchy at 
others, it reflected its dependence on the 
original Outline overlord as well as on 
subsequent planning by lower tactical 
headquarters for armies and their asso- 
ciated naval task forces and tactical air 
forces. It threw the whole burden of de- 
tailed ground planning to the armies, 
which were directed to submit outline as- 
sault plans before 15 February. These 
plans were to show regimental frontage 
with objectives, Ranger (Commando) 
and airborne tasks, provisional lists of 
beach defense targets with timing for fire 
support, and the approximate number of 
men and vehicles to be landed in each 
regiment (or brigade) on the first four 
tides, with the number and types of land- 
ing craft required. They were also to fur- 
nish lists, by types of units, of the number 
of men and vehicles to be carried in the 
initial lift, a forecast of operations and 
tentative build-up priorities from D plus 
1 to D plus 14, and proposals for achieving 
the airfield construction program. 59 

The First U.S. Army plan, issued on 25 
February, and, the Second British Army 
plan, issued on 20 March, together con- 
stituted the over-all ground forces plan 
for overlord, inasmuch as 21 Army 
Group never drew up an army group 
plan. 60 Both the naval and air command- 
ers in chief published over-all plans. The 
naval plan in particular was in exhaustive 
detail and was subject, of course, to con- 

69 neptune Initial Joint Plan by ANCXF, CinC 21 
A Gp, and CinC AEAF, pars. 103-104. Pre-Inv file 
247. 

60 FUSA Operations Plan neptune, 25 Feb 44. I2th 
A Gp file 370.2; Second British Army, Outline Plan, 
4 Feb 44. Pre-Inv file 631A. 



tinual amendment as changes occurred 
at lower levels and as allocations of land- 
ing craft and naval vessels were shifted. 

Planning proceeded almost simultane- 
ously on ail levels. Outline plans for 
armies, corps, and naval task forces were 
prepared early and used as a framework 
for the planning of lower echelons. The 
lower echelon plans in turn filled in and 
modified the army, corps, and task force 
plans, which were generally (though not 
always) issued in final form as field or op- 
eration orders. 

In the sections following, no one plan 
is described. The attempt rather has been 
to distill out of the scores of relevant docu- 
ments—plans, memoranda, minutes of 
meetings, amendments, and similar 
sources— the salient points of the tactical 
plan at about army level and to discuss 
the principal problems that arose in the 
course of the planning from the time of 
General Eisenhower's assumption of com- 
mand. Detailed plans of divisions and 
lower units will be found in appropriate 
places in the narrative of operations. 

The Enemy 61 

Planning during the winter and early 
spring proceeded on the assumption that 
enemy strength and dispositions would 
remain substantially unchanged before 
the target date. The assumption was nec- 
essary in order to have a firm basis for 
planning, but actually it was already clear 
in February that the enemy was busy 

61 It should be observed that this whole section 
represents the enemy dispositions and preparations 
only as known by Allied commanders. It should be 
compared with Chapters IV and VII and with the 
operational chapters, VIII through X. Allied in- 
telligence, on the whole, however, was accurate and 
complete before the invasion. 



OVERLORD REVISED 



175 



strengthening his defenses in the west. It 
was noted that the rotation of offensive 
divisions from rest areas in France to the 
Eastern Front, which had been normal 
German practice throughout 1943, had 
now stopped, although the flow of battle- 
worn divisions into the west from Russia 
continued. The total German strength in 
France and the Low Countries was esti- 
mated to have climbed from forty to fifty- 
three divisions by February, and indica- 
tions were that it might reach sixty by 
spring. Estimates in May seemed to con- 
firm this prediction. 62 But despite the 
enemy build-up of divisional units he still 
had only about twelve reserve divisions, 
and this was precisely the figure set by 
COSSAC in July 1943 as the maximum 
number of offensive divisions that the 
Allies could safely take on. Thus the esti- 
mated addition to Rundstedt's troop list 
of some twenty divisions between the 
summer of 1943 and spring of 1944 did 
not in itself force any revision of Allied 
plans or cause any grave Allied concern. 
The May estimates of German capacity to 
build up against the Allied bridgehead 
did not greatly exceed COSSAC's maxi- 
mum figures. COSSAC had set as a con- 
dition for the attack that the enemy 
should not be able to withdraw more than 
fifteen divisions from Russia. In May it 
seemed unlikely that any more divisions 
would be moved from the Eastern Front, 
at least in the first few months of over- 
lord, or that more than thirteen divisions 
could be diverted from other fronts. 
COSSAC's conditions further included 
a maximum enemy build-up in the inva- 
sion area of three divisions on D Day, five 

62 See e.g., 4th Div FO 1, Annex 2a, 15 May 44. 
Division field orders are in the collection of Eu- 
ropean theater operational records. 



by D plus 2, and nine by D plus 8, in ad- 
dition to the coastal divisions. Allied in- 
telligence in May reckoned the enemy 
capable of the same maximum build-up 
on D Day, of six to seven divisions by D 
plus 2, and eleven to fourteen divisions by 
D plus 8. The latter calculations were in 
equivalent first-class divisions as it was 
estimated that the majority of the enemy's 
mobile reserves were neither fully mobile 
nor up to authorized strength. 63 

More than half the German divisions 
were known to be static or limited em- 
ployment—that is, either immobile de- 
fense divisions or divisions capable only of 
limited offensive action. 64 It was con- 
sidered likely that troops of the static di- 
visions would resist only so long as they 
could fire from protected positions with 
minimum risk to themselves. 65 Although 
in May all divisions were believed in the 
process of being strengthened for offen- 
sive use, it was felt that this upgrading 
could not be completed in time. 66 Fur- 
thermore it was believed that any im- 
provement of the static divisions would 
be at the expense of at least an equal num- 
ber of nominal attack divisions which were 
understrength and underequipped. 67 The 
conclusion, in short, was that the enemy, 
suffering from materiel shortages and 
transportation difficulties, could not 

63 JIC (44) 210 (O) (Final) , Opposition to over- 
lord, 20 May 44. SHAEF SGS files (JIC Papers) . 

64 See Ch. VII for discussion of types of German 
divisions. "Limited employment" was a G-2 term for 
which there was no German equivalent. It meant 
simply a unit which in the opinion of the G-2 had 
less than full combat value. For classification by the 
Germans of their own divisions, see below, Ch. VII, 
n. 66. 

85 Annex I to FUSA plan cited n. 60. 

66 4th Div FO 1, 15 May 44. 

67 JIC (44) 215 (O) , Periodic Review of Condi- 
tions in Europe and Scale of Opposition to 'over- 
lord/ 25 May 44. 



176 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



greatly increase the total offensive strik- 
ing power of his troops in France al- 
though he might choose either to concen- 
trate it or to spread it thin. 

The German tactics of all-out defense 
of the coast line were well known. It was 
assumed, however, that this did not mean 
literally a main line of resistance at the 
water's edge but rather a short stubborn 
stand in the fortified coastal zone of long 
enough duration to permit attack divi- 
sions in immediate tactical reserve to 
launch holding counterattacks. These in 
turn would give time for the massing of 
armored reserves for a full-scale counter- 
attack designed to drive the Allies back 
into the sea. If this were the German de- 
fense plan, then the location and quality 
of reserves were the critical factors in any 
estimate of enemy capabilities. 

Reserves available to Rundstedt were 
estimated at ten panzer and panzer gren- 
adier divisions and fourteen to seven- 
teen attack infantry or parachute divi- 
sions. 68 But of these only about three to 
four panzer and two infantry divisions 
were considered first quality. It was ex- 
pected that the enemy would be able to 
move one panzer and two infantry divi- 
sions into the invasion area on D Day to 
reinforce the defense and mount local 
counterattacks. Further reinforcements 
would trickle in during the next two days 
and would probably be committed piece- 
meal. By D plus 3 the enemy might have 
a total of three panzer, two parachute, 
and four attack infantry divisions in addi- 
tion to his coastal defense troops. These 
reinforcements could be organized for 
large-scale counterattack by D plus 7. Es- 
timates did not agree, however, as to 

68 CCS 454/6, Review of Conditions in Europe (10 
May 44) , 17 May 44; c£. JIC paper cited n. 67. 



either the likelihood of such an attack or 
the probable timing. 69 What was clear 
was that at any time after D plus 3 con- 
siderable enemy pressure in the form 
either of a large co-ordinated counterat- 
tack or of a multiplication of piecemeal 
attacks could be expected. The Navy was 
therefore directed to land the maximum 
number of operational troops before that 
date. 

The German Army in the west awaited 
attack behind the much-advertised "At- 
lantic Wall" into which the enemy since 
1943 had been pouring a new rumor of 
impregnability with each bucket of con- 
crete. But despite both rumors and con- 
crete it was clear to Allied planners that 
the Atlantic Wall had few of the charac- 
teristics of a wall and was probably not 
impregnable, provided a sufficient weight 
of fire could be directed against it. 70 Of 
prime concern to the Allies were the 
coastal batteries. Four batteries of 155- 
mm. guns were identified in First U.S. 
Army zone (a total of twenty-two guns), 
the most formidable of which was the six- 
gun battery at Pointe du Hoe. The Ger- 
mans had two heavy (240-mm.) coastal 
batteries within range of Allied sea lanes 
and assault areas, one at Le Havre and one 
(batterie Hamburg) 71 at Fermanville 
east of Cherbourg. The latter, however, 
was little cause for concern. In May 
Allied reconnaissance ascertained that the 
enemy was busy casemating the Ferman- 
ville guns in such a way as to prohibit 
their being brought to bear against the 
overlord assault. Last-minute intelli- 



88 See, e.g., CCS 454/5, 14 Apr 44. 

70 Naval Expeditionary Force Planning Memo- 
randa-Section I, 26 Dec 43. SHAEF AG file 045.93-2. 

71 This battery figured in the ground fighting 
later. See below, Ch. X. 



OVERLORD REVISED 



177 



gence reports cheered the enemy on, 
noting that "construction activity [was] 
continuing at good pace." 72 

In fixed emplacements it was estimated 
that the enemy had a maximum total of 
seventy-three guns that could fire on the 
American attack. It was believed, how- 
ever, that he also had mobile artillery be- 
hind the coast. Allied intelligence es- 
pecially warned of the enemy's highly 
mobile 170-mm. gun, which had a range 
of 32,370 yards. 73 The gun could be so 
easily handled that German practice was 
to fire not more than two rounds from the 
same position. Frequent displacement 
would, of course, make effective counter- 
battery fire almost impossible. All eight 
of the 170-mm. guns known to be in the 
U.S. invasion zone were bombed out of 
positions on the Cotentin during air raids 
in the middle of May and were thereafter 
unlocated. 74 

In the early months of 1944, the Ger- 
mans were observed to be working hard 
at strengthening their defenses along the 
invasion coast. On 20 February air photo- 
graphs for the first time revealed antiland- 
ing obstacles below the high-water mark 
on certain French beaches. The discov- 
ery was no surprise but it was a cause for 
concern. German experimentation with 
beach obstacles had been reported in the 
early months of 1943. At about that time 
the British Combined Operations Head- 
quarters had begun counterexperimenta- 
tion in clearing such obstacles, chiefly in 
the expectation that they might be faced 
in Mediterranean operations. Allied 
naval planning for overlord in late 1943 

« NCWTF Int Bull 2, 29 May 44. 

73 As compared to an estimated maximum range 
of 25,000 yards for the 155-mm. guns. 

74 NCWTF Int Bull 1, 21 May 44. 



gave prominent, if necessarily vague, con- 
sideration to the problem. But detailed 
provisions and training for coping with 
the obstacles had to wait until their full 
nature and extent became apparent. Al- 
lied reconnaissance watched with special 
interest the growth of the enemy's works 
in the tidal flats during the late winter 
and early spring. 75 The growth was rapid. 
For example, at Quineville (east coast of 
the Cotentin) a double row of tetrahedra 
or hedgehogs 2,300 yards long, with 
twenty-six feet between obstacles, was laid 
in four days. 76 

The enemy began placing his obstacles 
near the high-water mark and then thick- 
ened the bands seaward. There was then 
some talk among Allied planners of shift- 
ing H Hour to coincide with low tide so 
as to allow engineers as much time as 
possible to clear the obstacles before the 
tide covered them. 77 By the middle of 
May, however, the obstacles on the inva- 
sion beaches still did not extend below 
the eight-foot mark above low water. 
Planners calculated that, if in the remain- 
ing days before D Day they were not set 
any lower, the planned touchdown time 
three hours before high water would still 
permit Allied engineers to deal with the 
obstacles dry shod. Breaching the ob- 
stacles under these conditions was consid- 
ered feasible, although V Corps had 



75 COS (44) 393 (O) , Clearance of Underwater 
Obstacles, 3 May 44. SHAEF SGS file 800.8; cf. Ltr, 
Eisenhower to Marshall, 6 May 44, in which he lists 
first among the "worst problems of these days" the 
problem of how to remove underwater obstacles. 
Eisenhower Personal Files. 

76 FUSA Int Note No. 18, 24 Apr 44. Pre-Inv file 
631A. 

77 Memo, Gen Kean (FUSA CofS) , for Gen Brad- 
ley, 20 Apr 44. Pre-Inv file 631A. H Hour had been 
fixed in February at about half-flood. 




VAUVILLE BEACH, SPRING 1944, Cotentin Peninsula west coast. 



OVERLORD REVISED 



179 



soberly commented in March that it 
might be "expensive." 78 

The enemy on the ground, though less 
formidable than his own propaganda re- 
ported, seemed formidable enough. On 
the sea and in the air there was little 
question of the Allies' overwhelming 
superiority. The relatively insignificant 
German Navy was not expected to risk 
any of its large surface warships in attacks 
on Allied convoys in the Channel, though 
they might attempt diversionary sorties 
in the Atlantic against Allied shipping 
there. The enemy's fifty to sixty E-boats 
(German S-Boote) carrying both mines 
and torpedoes were expected to be the 
greatest surface menace to the invasion 
fleet. 79 But even these boats would prob- 
ably attack only at night. The estimated 
130 ocean-going submarines (over 300 
tons) based in the Bay of Biscay and the 
25 short-range boats in the Baltic had 
never been used in the Channel. It 
seemed unlikely that they would take 
that risk even during the invasion, al- 
though they might be concentrated 
against assemblies of Allied shipping, es- 
pecially in the western Channel ap- 
proaches. 80 The enemy was known to be 
experimenting with midget submarines 
and human torpedoes. These might be 
used close to shore against ships carrying 
the assault troops, but no one could even 
guess how many of these craft might be 
available by D Day. On the whole, the 
Allies predicted that their chief concern 
at sea would be enemy mines. In any 

78 V Corps Breaching Plan, Underwater and Beach 
Obstacles, 17 Mar 42, prepared jointly by CG V 
Corps and Comdr 11th Amph Force. Pre-Inv file 647. 

79 NCWTF Int Bull 1,21 May 44. 

80 neptune Monograph, prepared by Comdr Task 
Force 122, Apr 44. Pre-Inv file 252. 



case, they did not anticipate a deter- 
mined enemy naval attack in the early 
stages of the assault. 

Estimates of the enemy's air strength 
varied so widely that they might have 
been drawn from a hat. Certain judg- 
ments, however, seem to have been gen- 
erally accepted. The German Air Force 
had increased slightly in numbers since 
the summer of 1943, but the increase, 
compared to the Allied build-up, was 
negligible. It was generally believed that 
the Luftwaffe would be capable of be- 
tween 1,000 and 1,800 sorties on D Day 
against overlord, but it was considered 
unlikely that the enemy would make 
anything like the maximum air effort in 
the early stages. Instead, he would prob- 
ably try to conserve his aircraft for use 
in close support of the expected large- 
scale counterattacks at the end of the first 
week after D Day. 81 

Although Goering was credited with 
having more than 5,000 aircraft, the 
effort which that force could exert and 
sustain would certainly be considerably 
less than its size alone suggested. The 
superiority of the Allies would probably 
prevent the enemy from daylight bomb- 
ing or would make such bombing in- 
effective and costly if it were attempted. 
The difficulties which the Germans were 
known to be experiencing with replace- 
ments in machines and crews would 
mean that the front-line air forces, how- 
ever impressive, would have little depth. 
Allied bombing of airfields, furthermore, 
was likely to cause drastic curtailment of 



81 For various estimates see AEAF Over-all Air 
Plan, 15 Apr 44. 12th A Gp file 370.2; JIC (44) 210 
(O) , 23 May 44; NCWTF Int BuU 1, 21 May 44. 



180 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



Luftwaffe efficiency. It was deemed un- 
likely that the enemy would be able to 
get into the air more than 60 percent of 
his nominal front-line force. 

The German Air Force had been de- 
feated by the Combined Bomber Offen- 
sive in the early months of 1944. This 
victory the Allies were sure of. The 
knowledge was the most important in- 
gredient in the final decision to go ahead 
with overlord. It was not certain, how- 
ever, just how dangerous a death agony 
the Luftwaffe might still be capable of. 
Air Marshal Leigh-Mallory said after- 
ward that he was always "confident that 
the German Air Force would constitute 
no serious threat to our operations on 
land, sea or in the air." He did admit, 
however, the possibility of a major air 
battle on D Day. 82 

The basic assumption behind all Al- 
lied estimates of German military power 
in the west was that the enemy would 
make his supreme effort to defeat the in- 
vasion, hoping thus to achieve a compro- 
mise peace despite his hopeless situation 
on the Russian front. The principal 
weakness of the enemy was believed to be 
the depreciation of his reserves in men 
and materiel which would prohibit him 
from a sustained defense. The Allies 
were of the opinion that the Germans 
would stake everything on the initial 
battle of the beach. The decision to go 
ahead with overlord therefore implied 
an estimate that the enemy's maximum 
strength was probably insufficient to win 
the battle for the beachheads. 



82 "Despatch by Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford 
Leigh-Mallory" (submitted to the Supreme Allied 
Commander in November 1944) , Fourth Supplement 
to The London Gazette No. 37838, 31 December 1946, 
pp. 40-41, cited hereafter as Leigh-Mallory, Despatch. 



Objectives and Terrain 

The February revision of the overlord 
plan did not affect the final objective of 
the operation in its later phases. The 
analysis of COSSAC and earlier planners 
which had led them to select the lodg- 
ment area in northwest France bounded 
by the Seine, Eure, and Loire Rivers was 
accepted, as well as the general timing 
and phasing of operations after the cap- 
ture of Cherbourg. It was the assault 
phase plan that underwent drastic revi- 
sion. 

The three beaches selected by COS- 
SAC 83 had capacity only for three assault 
divisions. New beaches were required 
for the expanded attack. Extension of 
the front eastward to include the beach 
between Lion-sur-M er and Oui streham 
was readily accepted. | [Map IT\ But the 
revived proposal to land a fiftn division 
northwest of the Vire estuary met re- 
newed opposition. The debate turned 
largely on the tactical implications of 
the topography of the neptune area. 

In the area were five regions with dis- 
tinguishable topographical characteris- 
tics—the north Cotentin (rolling uplands 
north of Valognes), the south Cotentin 
(generally flat and well watered), the 
Bessin (the coastal strip lying between 
Isigny and Bayeux), the Bocage (hilly 
wooded country extending south of the 
Bessin and Cotentin nearly to the base 
of the Brittany Peninsula), and the rel- 
atively open Caen country from Bayeux 
east and southeast. 84 The three British 



83 Lion-sur-Mer _ Courseulles - Arromanches, and 
Colleville-Vierville. 

84 The regional nomenclature here, not entirely 
consistent with current French usage, is derived from 
neptune Monograph, pp. 26-31. See n. 80. 



OVERLORD REVISED 



181 



beaches all lay in the east portion of the 
Bessin and in the Caen country. There 
was no clear demarcation between the 
Caen country and the Bessin. But where- 
as the Bessin merged to the south with 
the Bocage, the Caen country spread 
southeastward into open arable land suit- 
able for tank maneuver and, more im- 
portant, for the development of airfields. 
In both the original COSSAC plan and 
the "Montgomery" plan, the securing of 
the Caen country for airfield develop- 
ment was a critical early objective for the 
assaulting forces. British troops were to 
take Bayeux and Caen on D Day, and 
push the bridgehead gradually south and 
southeast. They would then secure air- 
field sites and protect the east flank of 
U.S. forces whose primary mission, in 
both plans, was the capture of Cher- 
bourg. COSSAC allotted only two Brit- 
ish divisions to the initial tasks of taking 
Bayeux and Caen. For the same tasks the 
Montgomery plan would land three divi- 
sions by sea and in addition put an air- 
borne division (less one brigade) east of 
the beachheads to secure crossings of the 
Orne River. In all the planning the vital 
importance of the "capture and reten- 
tion" of Caen and neighboring open 
country was underlined. 85 On the other 
land no pre-D-Day plans called for ex- 
ploiting the favorable tank terrain at any 
phase of the operation for a direct thrust 
southeast toward Paris. Instead, the Brit- 
ish army would push gradually south and 
east of Caen until its left rested approxi- 
mately on the Touques River and its 
right, pivoting on Falaise, swung toward 
Argentan-AIencon. 86 

85 See, for instance, Second Br Army/83 Group, 2d 
TAF, Plan, 20 Mar 44. Pre-Inv file 631A. 

86 Montgomery, Brief Summary of Operation 
"overlord" as Affecting the Army, 7 Apr 44. Photo- 



In both the COSSAC and Montgomery 
plans the task of securing the Bessin fell 
to one U.S. corps, with one division in 
the assault. Critical topographical fea- 
ture of the Bessin was the Aure River, 
which flows out of the Bocage to Bayeux 
and then turns west to parallel the coast 
line to Isigny where it joins the Vire 
near its mouth and empties into the 
Channel. The Aure in its lower reaches 
between Trevieres and Isigny runs 
through a broad, flat, marshy valley 
which can be flooded by damming the 
river. When flooded, the Aure in effect 
makes a peninsula of the coastal sector 
between Port-en-Bessin and Isigny. The 
"peninsula," varying in width from 
about a mile and a half at the eastern end 
to about five miles at the western, is a 
very gently rolling tableland. Most of it 
is cut up in the typical Norman pattern 
of orchards, hedgerow-enclosed meadows, 
and patches of trees. Only along the 
coast between Vierville-sur-Mer and St. 
Laurent is the country relatively open. 
Through the "peninsula" runs the main 
lateral road in the invasion area: a sec- 
tion of the principal highway from Paris 
to Cherbourg. This was the rope which 
alone could tie the five beachheads into 
one. Early control of it was essential for 
the security of the initial lodgment area. 

In the COSSAC plan the Bessin-Caen 
bridgehead would have been expanded 
south and southwest deep into the Bocage 
during the first week of the operation. 
A force would then have broken out 
northwest to sweep up the Cotentin and 
capture Cherbourg. Although this was 
deemed a feasible operation, the low 
marshy bottom lands of the Douve River 

static copy with Montgomery's penciled corrections 
in Hist Div files. 



182 



CROSS CHANNEL ATTACK 



and its tributaries, which stretched nearly 
across the base of the peninsula, would 
have made it difficult. Subject to inun- 
dation, these almost continuous swamp- 
lands, traversed by only three main roads, 
draw an easily defended moat across 
about five-sixths of the peninsula. The 
only dry corridor is on the west coast— 
a strip 5,000 to 6,000 yards wide between 
St. L6-d'Ourville and St. Sauveur de 
Pierre-Pont, which could easily be held 
by a small enemy force. 

The overriding importance of Cher- 
bourg had therefore led to early con- 
sideration of a simultaneous assault in 
the peninsula itself to establish Allied 
forces north of the Douve line. Such an 
attack became practicable only with the 
decision to employ five divisions in the 
assault. But even then it had serious dis- 
advantages, chiefly because, in addition 
to the inundations at the base of the 
peninsula, there was a flooded coastal 
strip behind the best landing beach on 
the east coast. Across this flooded area, 
which was about two miles wide and 
extended from the Bancs du Grand Vey 
to Quineville, narrow causeways pro- 
vided the only exits from the beach. 
Four such exits led from the beach pro- 
posed for assault by one U.S. division. 
Again the terrain favored the defense. 
Relatively small German forces could 
hold these causeways, block Allied egress 
from the beaches, and quite possibly de- 
feat the landing at the coast. The pro- 
posed solution was to employ an air- 
borne division to be dropped before H 
Hour in the vicinity of Ste. Mere-Eglise 
with primary mission of seizing and 
holding the causeways in order to permit 
the seaborne infantry to cross unopposed. 
Even this solution involved risks which 



some planners felt were not justified. 
The only previous Allied experience 
with large-scale airborne operations, in 
Sicily, had not proved a notable success, 
and these had been launched against an 
enemy relatively weak and unprepared. 
More important, it was pointed out that 
the same water barrier which barred the 
Cotentin from attack from the south 
could also be used by the enemy to main- 
tain a wedge between the Allied bridge- 
heads on either side of the Vire. It was 
conceivable then that the enemy might 
defeat the landings in detail. Finally it 
was argued that the Bessin-Caen attack 
must be the main Allied effort. If it 
failed, success on the Cotentin could 
never be exploited. The fifth division, 
therefore, should be left in floating re- 
serve to insure the success of the main 
landing and not committed in the long- 
shot Cotentin gamble. 

This argument was presented in a 
SHAEF planning paper as late as 23 
January 1944. 87 A week later, with the 
publication of the Initial Joint Plan, the 
decision was made that the risks of the 
Cotentin assault were worth taking in 
view of the need to secure the port of 
Cherbourg as early as possible. First U.S. 
Army was to assault on both sides of the 
Vire estuary with one regiment of VII 
Corps to the north on the beach later 
called utah and two regiments of V 
Corps between Vierville and Colleville 
on the beach later called omaha. 88 First 



87 NEPTUNE-Comparison of Methods of Employ 
ment of Additional Resources. SHAEF G-3 files, 
bundle A-l (Pre-D-Day Planning Papers) . 

88 Beaches utah and omaha were first designated 
X and Y respectively. The final code names were pub- 
lished by First Army in Amendment 1 to FUSA plan, 
3 Mar 44. 



OVERLORD REVISED 



183 



Army's main task would be "to capture 
Cherbourg as quickly as possible." 89 

For the task of seizing and holding the 
causeways across the flooded strip behind 
utah Beach, the Initial Joint Plan allot- 
ted to First Army one airborne division. 
Further planning revealed that the force 
was inadequate and raised the larger 
problem of how airborne operations 
could best contribute to the success of 

OVERLORD. 

A irborne Planning 

General Morgan, it will be recalled, 
had been allotted two airborne divisions 
to be used in the assault but was given 
only 632 transport aircraft. His plan was 
to use two-thirds of one division plus 
seven to nine battalions in the initial 
drop on D Day to seize Caen and certain 
river crossings and coastal defenses. But 
even this force, he calculated, required 
372 more planes than he had. 90 The Que- 
bec Conference, considering Outline 
overlord, increased the allotment of air 
transport but found that, even counting 
the problematical availability of four 
U.S. groups, the total would still fall 
short of COSSAC's requirements. It 
appears, however, that the real difficulty 
as the time for overlord approached was 
not in finding the necessary aircraft but 
rather in arriving at a conviction that 
they were needed. In the last weeks be- 



89 Amendment 1, 2 March 1944, to neptune Initial 
Joint Plan (see n. 59) added as a second priority 
task the development of the beachhead south toward 
St. L6 "in conformity with the advance of Second 
British Army." In the light of Second Army's mis- 
sion to protect the left flank of First Army, this made 
a kind of circular relationship which amounted to 
telling both armies to keep pushing abreast. 

90 COSSAC (43) 36, 28 Jul 43. 



fore the launching of overlord, high- 
level discussions of the use of airborne 
troops in the operation turned not so 
much on the availability of resources as 
on how, tactically, the forces should be 
employed. 

There was some early skepticism about 
the capabilities of airborne operations in 
con j unction with amphibious assault. The 
Dieppe raid commanders recommended 
against dependence on parachutists be- 
cause they felt it would be almost im- 
possible to secure a coincidence of 
weather and light conditions suitable 
both for air drops and for landing by 
sea. 91 The development of navigation 
aids, however, greatly reduced this ob- 
jection after 1942. On the other hand, 
the difficulties encountered in executing 
the airborne drop in Sicily gave some ob- 
servers new reason for skepticism. In a 
report circulated among commanders 
planning the overlord assault, Com- 
bined Operations observers wrote that 
airborne operations were risky and "un- 
due dependence on airborne effort must 
only too often lead to disappointment or 
even disastrous consequences for land 
forces." 92 

This conclusion was fortunately not 
shared by either General Eisenhower or 
General Marshall. In their view the diffi- 
culties of the airborne operations in 
Sicily proved only the error of dispersing 
the effort. Both wanted greater mass in 
future drops. Eisenhower recommended 
that all troops should be landed at once, 
rather than in successive waves, and that 
larger forces should be employed. Gen- 

91 Combined Rpt, The Dieppe Raid, Sep 42, Part 
V. SHAEF G-3 files, bundle A, item 9. 

92 CO Rpt, Lessons Learnt in the Mediterranean, 
14 Oct 43. Pre-Inv file 661. 



184 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



eral Marshall agreed and added his 
opinion: "The value of airborne forces 
in overlord would be immense, and 
would enable us to seize quickly and con- 
trol ports which could not otherwise be 
used." 93 

Airborne commanders were thinking 
along much the same lines. The organiza- 
tion of the airborne division under the 
Army Ground Forces' concept of a light 
infantry division was ill adapted to its 
tactical employment in Europe. Maj. 
Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway (commander 
of the 82d Airborne Division), from his 
experience in Sicily, proposed in Decem- 
ber 1943 a new Table of Organization 
which would have added some eight to 
nine thousand men, roughly doubling 
the current size of the division. 94 The 
purpose was to make it capable of sus- 
tained ground effort. Although the new 
organization fitted the developing con- 
cept of using airborne forces in mass, it 
was rejected first by Lt. Gen. Lesley J. 
McNair, Chief of the Army Ground 
Forces, and later, on re-examination, by 
the Joint Staff Planners. 95 These actions 
postponed formal reorganization, but for 
European operations they made little 
practical difference. The two airborne 
divisions scheduled for use in overlord 
were in fact swelled to something like 
the size recommended by General Ridg- 



93 CCS 120th Mtg, 24 Sep 43. Eisenhower's recom- 
mendations were made in a letter to Marshall, 17 
Jul 43. Eisenhower Personal Files. 

94 Cbl, Marshall to Devers, R 6441, 1 Dec 43. WD 
Cable log. 

05 App. to CCS 496, 26 Feb 44. The gist of the plan- 
ners' opinion was simply that it seemed "unwise to 
make any important changes in our airborne or- 
ganizations until further tests in actual combat have 
been made." See Greenfield et al., Organization of 
Ground Combat Troops, p. 349. 



way, by the attachment to each of two 
separate parachute regiments. 

The February revision of the overlord 
plan struck out COSSAC's use of air- 
borne forces in dispersed packets for a 
variety of commando objectives. COS- 
SAC's plan to take Caen with airborne 
troops was also eliminated as unneces- 
sary in view of the additional British 
division to be landed by sea. On the 
other hand, expansion of the front to the 
east raised a new tactical requirement— 
the need to secure crossings over the 
Orne River to cover the British left flank. 
This mission could best be accomplished, 
it was thought, by dropping parachutists 
on the east bank of the river. On 7 Feb- 
ruary General Eisenhower proposed that 
two divisions be dropped simultaneously 
in the U.S. and British zones "with such 
depth of means including trained crews 
behind the simultaneous lift to enable 
a third airborne division to be dropped 
complete 24 hours later." 96 To this the 
British air staff replied flatly that it was 
impossible because of the lack of trained 
crews. 97 Eisenhower for the moment ac- 



96 COS (44) 140 (O) , Airborne Forces for overlord, 
7 Feb 44. 

97 Ibid. The difficulties of training air crews for 
airborne operations were discussed in detail in a 
memorandum by the Chief of Air Staff (COS (44) 
135 (O) ) , 6 Feb 44. An excerpt follows: 

"The crew after passing out of the [Operational 
Training Unit] O.T.U. (3 months' course) and be- 
ing 'converted' to the handling of heavy aircraft by 
day and night, require some 30 hours' basic train- 
ing which consists mainly of map reading from low 
altitudes. The crew must also receive instruction on 
the use of radio aids to navigation. 

"When proficient as a crew and familiar with their 
equipment they begin training with troops, first 
dropping a few parachutists, then full 'sticks' and 
thence passing on to tugging gliders. 

"Finally the very highly organized system of as- 
sembly, take-off, manoeuvre and approach has to be 
learned and practiced. Some idea of the skill and 



OVERLORD REVISED 



185 



cepted this verdict because he did not 
want to risk interference with the in- 
tensity of the bomber offensive. During 
February, however, it became apparent 
that there would be lift and crews enough 
for a simultaneous landing of one and 
two-thirds divisions. It was decided to 
land the 101st Airborne Division behind 
utah Beach and two British airborne 
brigades (regiments) of the 6th Airborne 
Division east of the Orne River. 98 First 
Army in the meantime had asked for a 
second airborne division to block the St. 
L6-d'Ourville corridor and prevent en- 
emy reinforcement of the Cotentin. This 
requirement was to be met by dropping 
the 82d Airborne Division in the vicinity 
of St. Sauveur-le Vicomte on the night of 
D Day, using the aircraft returned from 
the initial operations. 

General Marshall, informed of the air- 
borne plans in February, questioned the 
planners' apparent conservatism. He felt 
that they still contemplated piecemeal 
employment, which he regarded just as 
unsound tactically for airborne as for 
armor. As an alternative he recom- 
mended a bold plan outlined by General 
Arnold. Arnold's plan briefly called for 
the establishment on D Day of an airhead 
in the Evreux-Dreux area which would 
directly threaten the Seine River cross- 



practice required may be gained by realizing that 
one aircraft with fully loaded glider takes off in the 
dark from each airfield every 30 seconds; that over 
800 aircraft and 440 tows have to arrive at the right 
place at the right time after a night flight; and that 
it is intended to land some 440 gliders in 20-30 
minutes at their destination. 

"All this training after the O.T.U. stage at present 
takes 2 months and is then dependent on weather. 
No cut is possible without risking failure." 

98 neptune Initial Joint Plan, Amendment 1, 2 
Mar 44. 



ings and Paris. In recommending this 
scheme, General Marshall called it a true 
vertical envelopment involving a major 
strategic threat which the enemy would 
have to meet by a major revision in his 
defense. In effect it would open a new 
front. He admitted that such an opera- 
tion had never been done before but 
added: "Frankly that reaction makes me 
tired." 99 He was anxious that full advan- 
tage be taken of the Allied airborne 
potential. He therefore sent the plan 
along to Eisenhower and dispatched a 
little War Department mission of 
"young men" to defend its merits in the 
theater. 

Eisenhower studied the plan and re- 
jected it. He agreed to the conception 
but not to the timing. "Mass in vertical 
envelopments is sound," he wrote, "but 
since this kind of an enveloping force is 
immobile on the ground, the collaborat- 
ing force must be strategically and tac- 
tically mobile. So the time for the mass 
vertical envelopment is after the beach- 
head has been gained and a striking force 
built up." He went on to draw an anal- 
ogy between the proposed airhead and 
the Anzio beachhead. The German, he 
reflected, had repeatedly shown that he 
did not fear what used to be called "stra- 
tegic threat of envelopment." At Anzio 
"the situation was almost a model for the 
classical picture of initiating a battle of 
destruction. But the German decided 
that the thrust could not be immediately 
translated into mobile tactical action, and 
himself began attacking." 100 If the Anzio 



99 Ltr, Marshall to Eisenhower, 10 Feb 44. Eisen- 
hower Personal Files. 

100 Ltr, Eisenhower to Marshall, 19 Feb 44. Eisen- 
hower Personal Files. 



186 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



beachhead could not succeed, though 
nourished from the sea and opposed by 
"inconsequential air resistance and only 
a total of some 19 enemy divisions in the 
whole of Italy," how much less chance 
would the isolated Dreux airhead have in 
the midst of some sixty enemy divisions 
and dependent on precarious air routes 
for supply and reinforcement! 101 

The fact is that even the decision to 
land two U.S. airborne divisions in the 
Cotentin was under severe criticism as 
unduly risky. The "Air people" antic- 
ipated heavy losses which they felt might 
result in negligible tactical achievement. 
Toward the end of April, Air Marshal 
Leigh-Mallory objected so strongly to 
the risks involved that a substantial revi- 
sion of plans was made. There was now 
transport enough for the simultaneous 
dropping of the parachutists of both U.S. 
divisions. Leigh-Mallory agreed to this 
but insisted that most of the glider land- 
ings be made at dusk on D Day rather 
than earlier as first planned. He believed 
that they would suffer heavy losses by 
daylight and that large-scale landings 
early on D Day would force dispersion of 
the parachutists for defense of the land- 
ing zones. His objections were sustained 
and the changes made. 102 

But this was not the end. Late in May, 
when Allied intelligence reported that 
the Germans had moved the 91st Divi- 
sion into the Cotentin the risks of the air 
borne drops soared. Planners suggested 
moving the 82d Division drop zones to the 



101 Cbl, Eisenhower to Marshall, 10 Mar 44. Eisen- 
hower Personal Files. 

102 Memo for SAC, 23 Apr 44. SHAEF SGS file 
373/2 I; Airborne-Air Planning Committee 9th Mtg, 
28 Apr 44. ETO file 337 (Conferences (Secret)), 
1 AR-16-Dr 1. See Bibliographical Note. 



Merderet River, and shifting the 101st 
zones slightly southward so that both divi- 
sions would be committed in the rela- 
tively small and easily defensible area be- 
tween the beaches and the Douve and 
Merderet Rivers. This proposal had to be 
modified, however, because the area 
seemed too small for landings by two di- 
visions. The compromise was to drop the 
82d Airborne Division astride the Mer- 
deret, two regiments landing west of the 
river with the mission of securing a 
bridgehead for exploitation to the west 
at least as far as the Douve. 103 

Even so, the plan did not look promis- 
ing. The Sicilian experience had con- 
vinced the British air staff that airborne 
troops should not be routed over heavily 
defended areas (either enemy or friendly) 
and that they should not be landed where 
they would be immediately faced with 
opposition. 104 The proposed Cotentin 
drops violated both of these precautions. 
Air Marshal Leigh-Mallory took an in- 
creasingly pessimistic view of what he 
called "this very speculative operation." 
On 29 May he told General Eisenhower 
that it was unwise to risk his carrier force, 
that casualties were likely to run over 50 
percent, and that the results would be so 
small that the airborne landings could 
not be depended on to insure the suc- 
cess of the utah Beach assault. General 
Eisenhower replied that he agreed the 
risks were great but that the airborne 
landings were essential to the whole op- 
eration and that therefore, if the invasion 
was to go in, the airborne risks must be 
accepted. 105 



103 vil Corps revised FO, 28 May 44. 

Wi COS (43) 552 (O) , Airborne Forces, 20 Sep 43. 

106 Ltrs, 29 and 30 May. SHAEF SGS file 373/2 I. 



OVERLORD REVISED 



187 



Development of the Lodgment 

After VII and V Corps secured foot- 
holds on either side of the Vire, they were 
to join up in the ground between the 
Vire and Taute Rivers. Originally both 
Carentan and Isigny were listed as D-Day 
objectives for VII and V Corps respec- 
tively. 106 Detailed planning showed this 
project to be unduly optimistic. Caren- 
tan was eliminated, and instead the 101st 
Airborne Division was ordered simply to 
seize crossings of the river and canal 
north and northeast of the city and be 
prepared to take it "as soon as the tactical 
situation permits." 107 Plans for the cap- 
ture of Isigny were ambiguous. Although 
the city was clearly excluded from the 
D-Day objectives listed in the 1st Division 
Field Order of 16 April and from sub- 
ordinate unit orders issued later, the 
29th Division on 29 May published a 
change to its field order which redrew 
the D-Day phase line to include Isigny. 108 
V Corps always viewed the capture of 
Isigny as belonging to the first phase of 
the operations but apparently issued no 
order that it should be taken on D Day. 
On 3 June, however, in a command con- 
ference on board the Force O headquar- 
ters ship, the V Corps commander, Maj. 
Gen. Leonard T. Gerow, told his sub- 
ordinate commanders that the 115th In- 

loe nepxune Initial Joint Plan, par. 63. 

107 101st Abn Div FO 1, 18 May 44. 

108 Change reads that the 1 16th Infantry will "pre- 
pare to defend the D-day objective from La Cambe 
(excl) west to Isigny (incl) and the eastern banks 
of the Vire River north thereof." This compared to 
the second change, 18 May, which gave the 116th 
Infantry the mission to "prepare to defend the D- 
day phase line from La Cambe (exclusive) west to 
Isigny (exclusive) . . . prepare to cross the Aure 
River west of Isigny for an attack on Isigny from 
the southeast." 



fantry should get to Isigny the first day if 
possible. 109 

Whether or not Isigny was taken, the 
principal concern of V Corps initially 
was to secure the tableland north of the 
Aure and be prepared to repel enemy 
counterattacks. It was believed that junc- 
tion of the two First Army beachheads 
would actually not require either corps 
to make a lateral movement in force. 
Southward advance especially by V 
Corps, it was thought, would probably 
force the enemy to pull out of the inter- 
corps zone. 110 

At the same time that the two corps 
were joining forces between Carentan 
and Isigny, VII Corps would clear the 
low rolling country of the south Coten- 
tin as far west as the Douve. 111 The VII 
Corps line would then be pushed up 
against the high ground of the north 
Cotentin, in some places within ten miles 
of Cherbourg. This line, running just 
north and northwest of the arc St. Vaast- 
la Hougue-Valognes-St. Sauveur-le Vi- 
comte, would be reached, it was hoped, 
by D plus 2. The 4th Division, joined 
by the 90th and later, if necessary, by the 
9th, would then make the final push to 
the port. This final phase through rug- 
ged country and the fortified hills that 
completely fenced the landward ap- 
proaches to Cherbourg was first expected 
to take about a week. But after the Ger- 
mans had reinforced the Cotentin the 



109 1st Div G-3 Jnl. 

110 General Gerow, Notes on V Corps Plan, undtd. 
Pre-Inv file 670. 

111 The revised VII Corps Field Order of 28 May 
makes no mention of cutting the peninsula, but 
contemplates an advance to Cherbourg on the 
Valognes axis with the corps' left flank rescing on 
the Douve River. 



188 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



date on which the port was expected to 
fall was set back to D plus 15. 112 

While VII Corps took Cherbourg, V 
Corps, assisted after D plus 6 by XIX 
Corps, would push deep into the Bocage 
country to establish a line roughly in- 
cluding the Lessay-Periers-St. L6 road, 
the principal lateral communication 
south of the Carentan-Caen highway. 
VII Corps would then regroup to attack 
south and First U.S. Army would ad- 
vance with three corps abreast to the line 
Avranches-Domfro nt. at the b ase of the 
Brittany peninsula. \Mat> III)\ The date 
set for the completion of this advance was 
D plus 20. At that point it was expected 
that the Third U.S. Army would become 
operational and First U.S. Army Group 
would take command over it and First 
Army. The new army group would then 
clear the Brittany peninsula, using First 
Army and such forces from Third Army 
as necessary. Thereafter both armies 
would face east, Third Army on the 
right. The Allied forces together would 
push to the Seine, securing the final lodg- 
ment area by about D plus 90 and com- 
pleting the initial phase of Operation 

OVERLORD. 

The final stages of the operation were 
conceived and stated in these broad 
terms. The outlined scheme of maneu- 
ver and the timetables were not designed 
as tactical plans; they were frames of ref- 

112 This was done at the recommendation o£ Gen- 
eral Bradley. See Ltr, Bradley to 21 A Gp, 26 May 
44, quoted in Memo for SHAEF G-3, 4 Jun 44, Status 
of Planning, 21 Army Group. SHAEF G-3 Ble GCT, 
Ops A (21 Army Group General) . Build-up sched- 
ules were then changed to delay the bringing in of 
port repair and operating units and allow additional 
combat troops to land in the early phase. The 79th 
Division was attached from Third Army to VII 
Corps and was ordered to begin landing on D plus 8. 
See VII Corps revised FO, 28 May 44. 



erence for future planning, set forth pri- 
marily so that the men of the beginning 
should have some idea of the shape of the 
end, so that their thinking might be large 
and their preparation adequate. 

The Selection of D Day 

The general timing of the assault was 
determined, as noted, by the Combined 
Chiefs of Staff, in accordance with con- 
siderations of weather, availability of re- 
sources, and co-ordination with the Rus- 
sians. The designation of 1 June as the 
target date meant that the actual assault 
would take place as soon as possible after 
that date. Selection of the day would be 
determined by the conditions required 
for H Hour. H Hour, in turn, would be 
chosen to secure an advantageous coin- 
cidence of light and tidal conditions. But 
just what those conditions should be was 
not easily formulated. 

The whole experience of the Mediter- 
ranean theater had been with night as- 
saults. A considerable body of Army 
opinion favored continuing the pattern 
of surprise landings under cover of dark- 
ness in the attack against the Continent. 
overlord, however, introduced new com- 
plications in its unprecedented size and 
the fact that it would go in against a 
heavily defended coast. The possibility 
of achieving tactical surprise seemed 
slight. Enemy radar would certainly 
pick up the approach of the Allied ar- 
mada by day or night. A night assault 
would impose uncertainty on the enemy 
as to Allied strength and intentions, 
but in order to attack at night the con- 
voys would have to make the turn toward 
the invasion beaches in daylight. Dark- 
ness would interfere with the enemy's 



OVERLORD REVISED 



189 



shooting, reducing risks to the invasion 
fleet and in particular covering the as- 
saulting troops from observed small arms 
fire. It was noted, however, that if the 
enemy chose to use flares extensively this 
cover might evaporate. Furthermore the 
obscurity of night was a double-edged 
weapon— or, better, a twofold shield. It 
would be quite as effective in preventing 
the Allies from laying down artillery fires 
or carrying out aerial bombardment in 
preparation for the landings. This was, 
of course, the crux of the decision on 
daylight or night landing: could the 
Allies engage successfully in a fire fight 
with enemy coastal defenders? Should 
they attempt a landing by a power plan 
or by stealth? 

COSSAC did not decide the question. 
Although noting that the requirements 
of the Navy for light in which to maneu- 
ver and to deliver observed fire support 
were likely to be decisive, the July over- 
lord plan did not outline a naval bom- 
bardment scheme. There was some 
doubt whether the ships for adequate 
fire support would be available. There 
was still more doubt whether naval fire 
could neutralize enemy defenses to an 
extent that would "reasonably assure the 
success of an assault without the cover of 
darkness." 118 

Resolution of the problem was to as- 
sault soon after first light so that, while 
maximum use could be made of darkness 
in covering the approach, the prepar- 
atory bombing and naval fire could be 

113 Memo, Col Partridge and Lt Col Bonesteel for 
Gen Bradley, 15 Dec 43. 12th A Gp file 370.03 (In- 
vasion) . Similar doubts had been expressed at the 
rattle Conference, held from 28 June to 2 July to 
discuss tactics of the assault. See discussion of Mount- 
batten's Memo on the rattle Conference at COS 
(43) 155th Mtg (O) , 12 Jul 43. 



delivered in daylight. The argument ul- 
timately accepted in the determination of 
H Hour in the Initial Joint Plan was 
admirably set out in an analysis by Lt. 
Gen. John T. Crocker, Commanding 
General of the British 1 Corps. 114 The first 
essential, he said, was the development 
of "overwhelming fire support from all 
sources, air, naval and support craft . . . 
to cover the final stages of the approach 
and to enable us to close the beaches. 
This requires daylight." Mediterranean 
experience, in his view, had shown that 
the effectiveness of naval fire depended 
on observation and that it had been 
much greater than was previously sup- 
posed. At least forty-five minutes of 
daylight, he estimated, would be neces- 
sary for full use of fire support, and he 
concluded that H Hour should be within 
one hour of first light. This was, in gen- 
eral, accepted. Certain adjustments had 
to be made, however, to allow for the 
other more rigid requirements for H 
Hour: suitable tidal conditions. 

The spring tide range on the Nor- 
mandy Channel coast was about twenty- 
one feet, the neap tide range about 
twelve feet. Low tide uncovered at omaha 
Beach a tidal flat of an average width of 
300 yards. Assaulting troops attempting 
to cross this flat would be entirely ex- 
posed to enemy small arms, mortar, and 
artillery fire. The higher the tide, the 
smaller the tidal flat and the less risk to 
the assaulting troops. The landings, how- 
ever, had to take place on a rising tide 
to permit the vehicle landing craft to 
ground, unload, and withdraw without 
having to dry out. The questions then 
to be answered were: how many vehicles 



Ltr, 14 Dec 43. I2th A Gp file 370.03 (Invasion) . 



190 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



should be landed on the first tide and 
how much time would that require? 
There was another difficulty. Outcrop- 
pings of rock off the beaches in the 
British zone would not permit a landing 
at low tide. But landings on all beaches 
had to be roughly simultaneous to avoid 
alerting the enemy before the entire mass 
of the attack could be applied. The 
happy mean seemed to be an H Hour 
three hours before high water. Since 
there was a two-hour stand of high water, 
the time thus decided was also only one 
hour after low tide. 115 

To fix rigid conditions of both light 
and tide for D Day would have placed the 
whole invasion unduly at the mercy of 
the weather. The possibility of a day- 
to-day postponement in case of bad 
weather was provided by allowing a cer- 
tain flexibility in the interval between 
first light and H Hour. The minimum 
daylight period was to be thirty minutes; 
the maximum, an hour and a half. The 
required conditions of light and tide pre- 
vailed during three days each fortnight. 
An additional requirement of moonlight 
for the airborne drops further narrowed 
the choice to three days a month. The 
first possible D Days after the overlord 
target date were 5, 6, and 7 June. H Hour 
on all those dates was to be staggered, 
varying by about an hour from east to 
west because of slightly varying tidal and 
beach conditions. 

Organization and Tactics of the 
Assault Forces 

Each of the five assault divisions was to 
be put ashore by a naval task force or- 



116 neptune, Initial Joint Plan, pars. 58-59. 



ganized not only for the transport of the 
troops but for their protection in the 
crossing and their support by naval gun- 
fire before and after the landings. In the 
U.S. zone Force U would land the 4th 
Division on utah Beach, and Force O, the 
1st Division on omaha. These, together 
with Force B carrying the 29th Division, 
the follow-up for omaha Beach, were all 
under the Western Naval Task Force, 
commanded by Admiral Kirk. The three 
British assault divisions, similarly or- 
ganized, came under the Eastern Naval 
Task Force commanded by Rear Adm. 
Philip Vian. 

The assaulting infantry were to be car- 
ried in transports specially modified for 
the purpose. The transports would pro- 
ceed to lowering positions, eleven miles 
offshore in the U.S. zone and seven miles 
offshore in the British zone. There the 
troops would be unloaded into LCVP's 
or LCA's, each of which carried about 
thirty men. The small craft were to go in 
abreast in waves to touch down at regular 
intervals along the whole length of the 
beaches to be assaulted. 116 

The basic tactical problem of the as- 
sault was to smash through the hard 
shell of enemy shore defenses. Partial 
solution could be found in the normal 
techniques for attack against a fortified 
position. But amphibious attack intro- 
duced a significant and complicating dif- 
ference. The assaulting infantry would 
have no room to maneuver. They could 
not fall back; they could not, except to a 
very limited degree, outflank enemy 
strong points. As the Dieppe command- 
ers pointed out, even though "an assault 

ii6 neptune, Initial Joint Plan, pars. 54-56; cf. 
[Charles H. Taylor] Omaha Beachhead (Washing- 
ton, 1945) , p. 31. 



OVERLORD REVISED 



191 



may take place on a flank of the main ob- 
jective, it is in itself a frontal attack. 
Thus, once the assault is discovered, 
there is little room for subtlety. The main 
necessity is to batter a way through in 
the shortest possible time." 117 The essen- 
tial lack of "subtlety" in the first phase 
might be mitigated by flexibility in the 
organization of the assault forces. To 
achieve that, the Dieppe commanders 
suggested using a minimum assault force 
on the widest practicable front while 
holding out a large floating reserve in 
readiness to exploit soft spots. The re- 
serve, it was suggested, might well consti- 
tute half the total force. Instead of staking 
everything on a power drive, in short, it 
might be possible to "feel your way in." 118 
General Morgan and some of his staff 
were attracted by this concept, as has been 
pointed out, but their efforts to apply it 
were frustrated chiefly by the shortage of 
landing craft. 

In the end, little reliance was placed on 
probing for weakness and exploiting it 
through decisive commitment of reserves. 
The assault was considered as a frontal 
attack which was unlikely even to have 
the advantage of tactical surprise. The use 
of smoke to cover the final run-in to the 
shore was seriously considered in July 
1943, 119 but later experimentation led to 
its rejection. Trials at the Assault Train- 
ing Center and in various Allied exercises 
showed that smoke tended to confuse as- 
sault troops as much as the defenders. 120 

117 Dieppe Rpt, cited n. 91. 

118 Address by Maj Gen Roberts (Dieppe Military 
Force Commander) , at Assault Training Center, 7 
Jun 43. Adm file 491. See Bibliographical Note. 

119 Proposed revision of Field Manual 31-5, Land- 
ings on a Hostile Shore, 1 Jul 43. Adm file 491. 

120 Interv with Brig Gen Paul W. Thompson, cited 
in Jones, neptune, I, 204. 



The final conclusions were that smoking 
of the hostile shore could not be suffi- 
ciently controlled, that it offered too 
many opportunities for fatal mistakes, 
and that by interfering with observed fire 
it would handicap Allied fire superior- 
ity. 121 

An amphibious assault without cover 
of darkness or smoke, and without the 
flexibility of a large floating reserve, de- 
pended for success on developing a weight 
behind the initial attack that would not 
only crumble enemy defenses but would 
carry the assaulting troops far enough in- 
land so that follow-up troops could be put 
ashore behind them to consolidate and 
then exploit the beachhead. The double 
requirement that the assaulting troops be 
able to knock out enemy fortifications and 
push rapidly inland required a careful 
balancing of striking power and mobility. 
The first proposal was to organize special 
assault divisions with one or two Ranger- 
type battalions, small and lightly 
equipped for the special task of reducing 
fortifications. The "Ranger" battalions 
would land first, followed by normal bat- 
talions. The assault division would go in 
on a broad front and move fast. It would 
be strong enough, when reinforced by 
cannon companies and antitank weapons, 
to hold a beachhead maintenance line. Its 
task then would be finished and exploita- 
tion would be undertaken by normal in- 
fantry divisions of the follow-up. 122 

The notion of a specially organized as- 
sault division was retained, but planners 
wished to minimize the structural changes 
and so facilitate the reconstruction of as- 



121 Cf. Commentary on Exercise pirAte, 12 Oct 43. 
Pre-Inv file 661. 

122 Address by Brig Gen Norman D. Cota at As- 
sault Training Center Conf, 2 Jun 43. Adm file 491. 



192 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



sault units for normal infantry tasks once 
they were through the enemy's fortifica- 
tions. The assault divisions were formed 
therefore simply by reducing the over- 
head of a normal infantry division both in 
men and vehicles and increasing the nor- 
mal infantry fire power. While the basic 
divisional structure remained unchanged, 
the rifle companies were organized in as- 
sault teams with special equipment to 
deal with fortified positions. The platoons 
of the assault companies were split into 
two assault sections apiece, each with 
twenty-nine men and one officer, the size 
being determined by the capacity of the 
LCVP. The two assault platoons in each 
company included rifle teams, a wire-cut- 
ting team, a bazooka team, a flame-throw- 
ing team, a BAR team, a 60-mm. mortar 
team, and a demolition team. The third 
platoon was similarly organized except 
that it had an 81 -mm. instead of a 60-mm. 
mortar and a heavy machine gun instead 
of a BAR. After the assault, each platoon 
was to be reorganized into a normal rifle 
platoon with two rifle squads and a weap- 
ons squad. 

The infantry assault troops were to be 
stripped to the barest combat essentials, 
but their fist was to be mailed. A tank bat- 
talion attached to each of the assault regi- 
ments would lead the attack. A portion of 
the tanks were to be carried in on LCT's 
to touch down approximately with the 
first infantry wave. Another portion were 
modified for amphibious operation and 
were to be launched about five or six 
thousand yards off shore and swim in 
ahead of the assault waves. 123 



123 These were M-4 medium tanks equipped with 
detachable canvas "bloomers" — accordion-pleated 
screens which when raised were capable of floating 
the 32-ton tanks by displacement. They had a duplex 



The use of tanks in the assault was a 
subject of prolonged discussion and ex- 
perimentation. In the end, the decision 
was to use them not as an armored force 
but as close-support artillery. Armor's 
characteristics of shock and mobility were 
to be disregarded, and no plans were to be 
made to use the tanks in exploitation 
from the beaches. Tanks were not the 
ideal assault artillery but they seemed the 
best available. Only armored guns had a 
chance of survival on the beaches. Tests 
indicated, moreover, that the tank 75-mm. 
or 76.2-mm. gun could be used effectively 
in neutralizing or destroying concrete 
pillboxes by firing into the embrasures. 
Tank fire so directed would enable the in- 
fantry to cut their way through the wire 
entanglements of the fortification, ap- 
proach the pillbox with flame throwers 
and demolition, and destroy it. It was ex- 
pected that the majority of the tanks 
would fire from hull down in the water 
and would not leave the beach at all dur- 
ing the assault phase. 124 

Following closely the beaching of the 
first tank companies, the leading infantry 
wave would touch down, clear the 
beaches, and cover the landing of engi- 
neer demolition teams. The task of the 
engineers— to cut and mark gaps through 
the belts of shore obstacles before these 
were covered by the rising tide— was one 
of the most critical in the operation, and 
its successful accomplishment demanded 
meticulous adherence to the time sched- 
ule. The engineers were to work with 



drive — twin propellers for swimming and the nor- 
mal track drive for overland. From the duplex drive 
came their common name "DD's." 

124 Assault Training Center, Training Memos, 
ASLT-4, 15 Jan 44 and ASLT-1, 1 Mar 44. Adm file 
491. 



OVERLORD REVISED 



193 



special naval demolition units and would 
have the assistance of tankdozers landed 
at this time. 

The succeeding assault waves would 
consist mostly of infantry and additional 
engineers to clear the beaches and mine 
fields inland. The first artillery units 
would come in about an hour and a half 
after the first landings. The heavy debar- 
kation of vehicles across the beaches 
would start about three hours after H 
Hour. By that time the assaulting infan- 
try was expected to have the beach exits 
cleared and to have fought their way well 
inland. 125 

Fire Support 

The task of smashing through enemy 
beach defenses was to be facilitated as far 
as possible by naval fire support and air 
bombardment. The early pessimism abou t 
what fire support could accomplish was 
never entirely dissipated. A theoretical 
study made early in January 1944 con- 
cluded that effective neutralization of 
enemy coastal and beach defenses would 
require a naval force of a size that was 
obviously far beyond the range of possi- 
bility. The silencing of fifteen enemy 
coastal batteries, for instance, was esti- 
mated to require a force of twenty to 
twenty-three battleships or cruisers. The 
drenching of the assault beaches and neu- 
tralizing fire on known strong points 
would take about twenty cruisers and one 
hundred destroyers, on the basis of three- 
tenths of a pound of high explosive per 
square yard of target area, or a total of 



125 For further details of the landing scheme as ap- 
plied on omaha, see Taylor, Omaha Beachhead, pp. 
30-33. 



3,375 tons of shells. 128 Not only were the 
ships allotted completely inadequate for 
the task, but there was considerable doubt 
whether even the optimum number of 
bombarding vessels could achieve what 
was demanded of them. COSSAC's naval 
staff estimated in the summer of 1943 that 
it would probably be possible to neutral- 
ize (though not destroy) medium and 
heavy coastal batteries, if they were not 
too numerous, but that naval fire support 
could not be relied on to deal with beach 
defenses or unlocated field batteries or 
provide effective close support for the as- 
saulting troops. 127 American experience 
in the landings at Tarawa seemed to con- 
firm this pessimism. A full report of the 
Tarawa operation was studied in Febru- 
ary by Admiral Ramsay, who observed 
that naval bombardment had apparently 
been effective against open emplacements 
but not against concrete. "The heaviest 
casualties," he noted further, "were 
caused by the failure to neutralize strong 
points and dug-outs during the period im- 
mediately before and after the touch- 
down of the assault." 128 

On the other hand, the experience of 
Dieppe had shown the imperative need 
for overwhelming fire support in an at- 
tack against a fortified coast. 129 One step 
toward solution of the problem was to in- 
crease substantially the naval bombard- 
ment forces. Originally these were all to 
be British according to an agreement 
made at Cairo. In February Admiral 
Ramsay assigned one battleship, one 
monitor, seven cruisers, and sixteen de- 

126 COS (43) 770 (O), 7 Jan 44. 

127 COS (43) 464 (O) , 12 Aug 43. 

"8 Ltr, Ramsay to CinC 21 A Gp, Effects of Naval 
Bombardment of Heavily Defended Beaches, 18 Feb 
44. Pre-Inv file 676. 

129 Comb Rpt, The Dieppe Raid, Part V. 



194 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



stroyers to the Western Naval Task Force 
to provide escort and fire support for 
First U.S. Army. 130 It was realized, in the 
light of the tentative fire plan prepared 
by First Army, that this allocation was in- 
sufficient, but the British Admiralty re- 
ported that no additional ships could be 
found from British resources. Admiral 
Ramsay in March therefore requested that 
U.S. warships be assigned to overlord. 131 
During April and May, three U.S. 
battleships, two cruisers, and thirty-four 
destroyers arrived in the theater and were 
assigned to Admiral Kirk's command. 
Certain British ships were detached, but 
the net result was a substantial increase 
in the naval forces available to support 
First Army. 132 Force O was allotted two 
battleships, three light cruisers, nine de- 
stroyers, and three Hunt destroyers 
(British); Force U was assigned one 
battleship, one monitor, three heavy 
cruisers, two light cruisers, eight destroy- 
ers, and one gunboat (Dutch). In addi- 
tion Admiral Kirk was able to set up a re- 
serve fire-support group consisting of one 
heavy cruiser, one light cruiser, and 
seventeen destroyers. The reserve group 
would relieve ships of the other two forces 
which either were badly damaged or had 
depleted their ammunition supply. 133 

The fire support plan, in general, em- 
phasized neutralization rather than de- 
struction. It was hoped that, by bringing 
a continuous heavy volume of fire to bear 
on enemy defenses, they would be ren- 

"0 FUSA plan, Annex 21, 25 Feb 44. 

131 Cbl, Eisenhower to Marshall, 20 Mar 44. Eisen- 
hower Personal Files; cf. Cbl, Br Admiralty to Br 
Adm Div (JSM) , 28 Mar 44, Annex IV to COS (44) 
295 (O) , 29 Mar 44. 

132 Amendment No. 1, 1 May 44 to Operation 
neptune, Naval Orders. 12 A Gp files, dr 89. 

if 3 FUSA plan, Annex 12, 27 May 44. 



dered ineffective during the critical stages 
of the assault. Attacks by air and sea were 
thus planned in a crescendo up to H 
Hour. The first targets were the enemy 
coastal batteries capable of interfering 
with the sea approach. Second were the 
beach defenses, the series of enemy resist- 
ance nests, which housed infantry wea- 
pons designed to check the assaulting 
troops on the beaches. Finally, naval guns 
were to furnish heavy artillery support 
for the infantry advance inland, pending 
the landing of army long-range artil- 
lery. 134 

The project of neutralizing enemy 
coastal batteries began long before D Day. 
Allied air forces were assigned missions 
against them during the preparatory 
period. At that time only those batteries 
were to be attacked which had casemates 
under construction, for the object was not 
so much to destroy the guns as to arrest or 
delay work on the protective covering. 138 
Actually in the spring nearly all the im- 
portant batteries in the invasion area were 
still in the process of being encased in 
concrete. Attacks against them, however, 
were severely limited on the one hand by 
the necessity for concealing from the Ger- 
mans the selected assault areas and on the 
other hand by the tactical air forces' heavy 
prior commitments. 136 Security consider- 
ations led to the policy of bombing two 
coastal batteries outside the assault area 
for each one bombed inside. Only about 
10 percent of the total bomb tonnage 
dropped during the preparatory phase 
(from the middle of April to D Day) was 

134 Ltr, Gerow to CG, FUSA, Prearranged Naval 
and Air Bombardment Plan, 13 Mar 44. Pre-Inv file 
676. 

135 AEAF Overall Air Plan, 15 Apr 44. 12th A Gp 
file 370.2. 

136 See below, Ch. VI. 




PREINVASION BOMBING of Pointe du Hoe by Ninth Air Force bombers. 



196 



CROSS CHANNEL ATTACK 



directed against coastal batteries, and only 
a third of that was expended in the inva- 
sion area. 137 

First U.S. Army in a series of plans 
through May spelled out the details 
of the counterbattery plan as it affected 
the U.S. zone. The battery at Pointe du 
Hoe, consisting of six 155-mm. guns with 
an estimated range of 25,000 yards, re- 
mained top priority in each phase of the 
counterbattery program. It was capable of 
firing on lowering positions 138 for both 
U.S. assault forces and against landings 
all along the coast from Port-en-Bessin in 
the British zone to Taret de Ravenoville 
north of utah Beach. In addition to re- 
ceiving a considerable percentage of Al- 
lied bombing and shelling, Pointe du Hoe 
was singled out for early capture after H 
Hour by the 2d Ranger Battalion operat- 
ing under V Corps. Besides Pointe du 
Hoe, First Army asked for bombardment 
of four other batteries before the night of 
D minus 3. They were to be attacked dur- 
ing daylight by medium bombers and at 
night by heavies of the RAF. 139 

These earliest attacks were naturally 
enough concentrated against the heaviest- 
caliber guns in the assault area. Intensifi- 
cation of the attacks on enemy defenses as 
the hour of assault approached brought 
in numerous smaller batteries and in- 
creased the weight of the effort. If by D 
minus 1 it was estimated that the enemy 
was no longer in doubt as to the selected 
assault area, then 50 percent of the avail- 
able heavy day bombers would be put on 
six batteries in the First U.S. Army sector. 
If it seemed likely that surprise was not 

137 Calculations are from statistics in Leigh-Mal- 
lory, Despatch, pp. 46-47. 

188 Also called "transport areas." 

FUSA plan, Annex 12 (Fire Support) , 2d Rev, 
27 May 44. 



lost, then only half as many bombers 
would attack. 140 Not until the night of D 
minus 1 would bombardment be concen- 
trated in the overlord area without re- 
gard for deception. Then RAF bombers 
would attack "with maximum operable 
strength" ten coastal batteries, including 
six in the First Army zone. 141 Medium 
bombers would take up the attack against 
some of these batteries beginning thirty 
minutes before H Hour, joined by heavy 
day bombers from H minus 15 to H minus 
5. Four other inland batteries would be 
attacked by fighter bombers from H Hour 
to H plus 10. In the meantime naval bom- 
bardment forces would have come within 
range. At first light, battleships and heavy 
cruisers would open main battery fire on 
enemy coastal guns. 142 

Coincident with the final phases of 
the counterbattery fire beach drenching 
would begin with simultaneous bom- 
bardment from sea and air. While heavy 
bombers of the Eighth Air Force attacked 
thirteen beach defense targets in the 
omaha area, medium bombers, beginning 
thirty minutes before H Hour, would at- 
tack defenses at utah. 143 But the burden 
of the task of saturating enemy shore de- 
fenses to cover the final run-in of the as- 
sault forces was assigned to the lighter 
ships of the naval bombardment forces 

«° Ibid. 

AEAF Overall Air Plan, cited n. 135. 

«* FUSA plan, Annex 12, 27 May 44. 

143 In early planning it was thought that cratering 
of beaches would be an important tactical by-prod- 
uct of this bombardment, and troops were briefed to 
expect to find cover in shell and bomb holes. See 
proposed revision of Field Manual 31-5, 1 Jul 43. 
Adm file 491. rattle Conference, however, assumed 
cratering to be an "adverse" effect of bombing from 
the Army point of view. See rattle Conf 3d Mtg, 29 
Jun 43. SHAEF SGS file 337/6. Actually the only 
significant cratering that took place was at Pointe du 
Hoe. See below, Ch. IX. 



OVERLORD REVISED 



197 



—especially the destroyers and support 
craft. 144 Specific beach targets were mostly 
machine gun positions, many having con- 
crete personnel shelters with some light 
artillery pieces. It was not expected, how- 
ever, that specific targets would be de- 
stroyed. Ground commanders asked for 
the destruction of only three targets in the 
Port-en-Bessin area; all others were to be 
neutralized. 145 Much reliance was placed 
on the support craft which could continue 
to fire up to H Hour after heavy-caliber 
naval gunfire had to be lifted to targets in- 
land in order to avoid endangering the 
first waves of troops. Particularly impor- 
tant were the rocket craft, LCT(R)'s, 
which had performed well in the Medi- 
terranean. 146 

The availability of support craft, how- 
ever, was always uncertain, and in the end 
only twenty-three could be assigned to 
support U.S. landings. U.S. commanders 
therefore early considered firing divi- 
sional artillery from landing craft. Exten- 
sive experiments were conducted by the 
British Combined Operations Headquar- 
ters in early 1943. In general those proved 
that self-propelled 105-mm. howitzers 
could achieve an acceptable accuracy in 
direct fire while afloat at ranges from 1 0,- 
000 yards. 147 There developed a certain 
disposition then to think of artillery in 
the assault as moving landward from suc- 

144 Light cruisers also participated and the Force 
U plan called for the battleship Nevada and the 
heavy cruiser Quincy to fire their five-inch batteries 
at beach targets. See Naval Task Force U, Operations 
Order, Annex D, 15 May 44. 

140 Norfolk House Mtg, 24 Apr 44, to consider the 
engagement of beach targets in the U.S. First Army 
area. ETO 337 (Conferences (Secret)) 1AR-16-Drl. 

146 CO Rpt, Lessons Learnt in the Mediterranean, 
14 Oct 43. Pre-Inv file 661. 

147 Address by Col H. F. G. Langley (COHQ) , at 
Assault Training Center Conf, 1 Jun 43; cf. proposed 
revision of Field Manual 31-5. Both in Adm file 491. 



cessive firing positions as it would displace 
forward in normal land combat. 148 Doc- 
trine of Combined Operations was that 
self-propelled guns should be capable of 
direct fire while afloat, and of direct and 
indirect fire both from beached craft 
and from hull down in the water. Accept- 
ing these theories, U.S. commanders 
planned to supplement their close-sup- 
port craft with LCT's modified to take 
two or three medium tanks apiece in posi- 
tion to fire during the approach to shore, 
and with normal LCT(5)'s carrying 105- 
mm. self-propelled howitzers, also in po- 
sition to fire while afloat. 149 

Final phase of the fire support plan was 
the arrangement for naval firing in sup- 
port of the Army's advance inland. To di- 
rect this fire, each of the three assault di- 
visions (4th, 29th, and 1st) had nine naval 
fire support control parties; nine naval 
gunfire spotting teams were to drop with 
the 101st Airborne Division. 150 Air ob- 
servation was to be furnished by forty air- 
craft of the British Fleet Air Arm, aug- 
mented by one RAF squadron and three 
reconnaissance squadrons, the latter to be 
relieved not later than noon on D Day 
for return to normal reconnaissance du- 
ties. 181 

«s Address by Col M. W. Brewster, Chief, Tactics 
Subsection, at Assault Training Center Conf, 1 Jun 
43. Adm file 491. 

149 Western Naval Task Force had nine LCG (L) 's 
armored and equipped with multiple rocket pro- 
jectors; sixteen LCT (A) 's equipped to carry 
medium tanks; and six LCT (HE) 's, similar to the 
LCT (A) but with less armor protection. There 
were also eleven LCF's mounting AA-guns. Two LCT 
(A) 's or (HE) 's were to carry a platoon of tanks 
between them. The fifth tank could fire rockets if 
desired. FUSA plan, Annex 21; cf. Western Naval 
Task Force, Operation Plan, 21 Apr 44. 

160 Some of the parties assigned to the 29th Divi- 
sion would operate with the 2d and 5th Ranger 
Battalions. FUSA plan, Annex 21. 

161 AEAF Overall Air Plan, 15 Apr 44. 



CHAPTER VI 



Preliminary Operations 



The French Resistance 

When the Germans conquered France 
in the spring of 1 940, they sealed their vic- 
tory with a symbolic nourish. It was as 
though by dictating the terms of humili- 
ating armistice in the historic railway car- 
riage at Compiegne they meant to prove 
not only that France was beaten but that 
she was helpless even to save her dignity 
in defeat. So it must have seemed in the 
railway car and so, too, throughout most 
of the country. But there were still a few 
Frenchmen who experienced the fact of 
defeat and witnessed the symbol of humil- 
iation without accepting the finality of 
either. In 1940 they could not have 
seemed very dangerous to the conquerors 
or, for that matter, very potent to them- 
selves. Their reaction was spontaneous 
and personal. Yet they were the seeds 
which, nourished by arms and Allied or- 
ganizers through four years of occupation, 
grew into an underground army number- 
ing about 200,000 men— an army that 
after the Allied landings in June 1944 im- 
pressed Allied leaders as having made a 
substantial contribution to the defeat of 
the enemy. 1 

During the first two years of the occu- 
pation, the Resistance movement de- 
veloped separately in the occupied and 
unoccupied zones. When the Germans 

1 Diary of CinC, 17 Jun 44; Rpt, Donovan (OSS) 
to Marshall, 9 Jul 44. OPD 61e 336.2, sec. II, cases 
29-47. 



finally moved into southern France in No- 
vember 1942, Resistance leaders were 
faced with the problem of bringing some 
sort of unity out of the anarchy of rival 
groups. At that time the northern zone 
had six independently organized groups; 
the south had three. Only one organiza- 
tion, the communist Front National, 
which operated through the Francs 
Tireurs et Partisans, extended control 
over both the northern and southern 
zones. 2 Between the other groups there 
was virtually no co-ordination. Their sep- 
arateness was due not only to the fact that 
as clandestine organizations they lacked 
regularized communications; more im- 
portantly they were divided by differing 
shades of political opinion. The French 
Resistance cannot be viewed as a simple 
revolt against the enemy, although oppo- 
sition to the Germans was, of course, al- 
ways the prime motive. It must be seen 
also as a movement aimed, at least by its 
leaders, at eventual national independ- 
ence. Whoever controlled the under- 
ground would evidently be in the strong- 
est position to control the liberated na- 
tion. 

The chief impetus toward national uni- 
fication came from General Charles de 
Gaulle's headquarters in London. Gen- 
eral de Gaulle began in 1940 the forma- 
tion of a special staff, later known as the 
Bureau Central de Renseignements et 



2 MS # B-035 (Roge) , A History of the FFI. 



PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



199 




HITLER LEAVING RAILWAY CARRIAGE AT COMPIEGNE where the Ger- 
mans dictated the 1940 peace terms to the French nation. 



d' Action (Mffitaire) (BCRA), charged 
wuh the organization, direction, and sup- 
ply of the Resistance. Contacts between 
dc Gaulle and the native Resistance were 
established through agents supplied by 
the British. The BCRA worked for nearly 
two years (from the summer of 1941 to 
the spring of 1943) with Resistance lead- 
ers to amalgamate the Resistance groups. 
Their work culminated in the formation 
of a National Committee (le Conseil Na- 
tional dc la Resistance) which met for the 
first time in Paris on 27 May 1943. The 
committee under the presidency of 



Georges Bidault included representatives 
not only of the main Resistance groups 
but of the principal political parties as 
well. Politically the new National Com- 
mittee recognized General de Gaulle and 
the London committee as trustees of the 
interests of the French nation and respon- 
sible eventually for founding a French 
government on democratic principles. De 
Gaulle's personal representative, Jean 
Moulin, was selected as political leader of 
the Resistance, Militarily the committee 
created an underground army (I'Armee 
Secrete) under the direct command of 



200 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



General Delestrain (known to the under- 
ground as General Vidal). The Army was 
elaborately organized on a regional basis 
and regional commanders selected. Pri- 
marily this organization was intended as 
a framework for the ultimate open co-op- 
eration of the French underground with 
the Allied armies. 3 

Much of the success of this first de 
Gaullist national organization was il- 
lusory, for it is evident that the Gestapo 
was aware of its progress and waited only 
for its completion before striking in June 
1943 with wholesale arrests. De Gaulle's 
representative died under torture. Gen- 
eral Delestrain was shot. The leadership 
of the underground army was decimated. 
The national organization was shattered, 
and Resistance groups throughout the 
country suffered heavy losses. 4 

In the widespread catastrophe, how- 
ever, there were some encouraging facts. 
By tipping their hand in the summer of 
1943, apparently in the expectation that 
Allied landings were imminent, the Ger- 
mans revealed the fatal weaknesses of the 
highly centralized underground organi- 
zation in time to permit the establishment 
of a new system of control before D Day. 
Furthermore, although the underground 
suffered severe personnel losses both 
among native resisters and among agents, 
a surprisingly small percentage of sup- 
plies was lost and, on the whole, the sup- 
ply reception committees were able to 



8 French Forces of the Interior, MS, pp. 9-40. Hist 
Div files. This is a 1,500-page history prepared in 
the European Theater Historical Section, under 
direction of Colonel S. L. A. Marshall, by United 
States, French, and British members of the OSS. Cited 
hereafter as FFI History. 

« FFI History, p. 40. 



continue operations in most parts of the 
country. 5 

Despite their losses, the Resistance 
groups displayed a remarkable resilience, 
and reorganization began at once. It is im- 
possible in short space to describe the 
many ramifications of the new organiza- 
tion. In general it may be said that a nomi- 
nal national unity was retained while sab- 
otage and paramilitary action were con- 
trolled regionally. The Germans con- 
tinued to make periodic arrests of Resist- 
ance leaders, but the new decentralization 
localized the damage to the movement. 

Concurrently with the organization of 
the Resistance for eventual overt activity, 
both the BCRA and a purely British or- 
ganization, the SOE (Special Operations 
Executive), were concerned with encour- 
aging, directing, and supplying immedi- 
ate and continuing sabotage. The SOE 
was formed in November 1940 and made 
the responsibility of the Minister of Eco- 
nomic Warfare— a responsibility that was 
added to the minister's duties as head of 
a department. The first mission of the 
SOE was to investigate the capabilities of 
the French Resistance, stimulate passive 
resistance in French industry working for 
the Germans, and study the possibilities 
of forming an underground army. As it 
began to work through agents in the field, 
the goal of encouraging passive resistance 
was gradually supplanted by the more am- 
bitious aim of developing French Resist- 
ance into a strategic weapon that could be 
directed by Allied headquarters against 
military objectives in conformity with the 
master Allied plan. 6 

6 Memo, SOE, Present Value and Tempo of Re- 
sistance, 9 Oct 43. SHAEF G-3 file 322-7 II, Ops C. 
9 FFI History, pp. 344-45. 



PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



201 



The SOE did not attempt to interfere 
directly in the indigenous organization 
of the Resistance. The British were con- 
tent to deal with the groups as established 
and confine their efforts to setting up and 
maintaining communications between 
the Resistance and London. The main 
task at first was to supply the resisters with 
arms and sabotage equipment. Later the 
SOE undertook to direct and co-ordinate 
Resistance action in accord with the over- 
lord plan. 

The first SOE agents parachuted into 
France in the spring of 1 94 1 . Among them 
was a French radio operator, Begue\ 
Through Begu£, contact was made with 
some of the Resistance groups and ar- 
rangements made for the first supply mis- 
sion flown on the night of 7 July 1941. 
Containers packed with explosives, small 
arms, flashlights, and a radio were para- 
chuted to ground organized by members 
of the Resistance. Location and markings 
of the grounds had been previously re- 
ported to London by Begue's radio. This 
was the first of many "shipments" of arms 
to the French underground which would 
forge out of the will to resist an effective 
weapon of war. But success was still far 
in the future. The year 1941 ended for 
the SOE in failure. Through treachery 
most of the British agents in the field were 
arrested, including Begue, and the slen- 
der communications link with London 
was snapped. 7 

The lesson drawn by the SOE from this 
experience was the impracticability of 
canalizing control through a central com- 
munications channel. Not only was the 
single communications channel much too 
vulnerable itself but it required the mul- 

1 1bid., pp. 347-49. 



tiplication of contacts between agents and 
Resistance groups and thus increased un- 
necessarily the risk that treachery or in- 
discretion would compromise a wide- 
spread organization. Henceforward the 
aim of the SOE was to create independent 
groups with independent communica- 
tions with London. During 1942, seven- 
teen radio operators, as well as thirty-six 
other agents, were parachuted into France. 
As communications became relatively se- 
cure and continuous, supply missions 
were flown in increasing numbers. Addi- 
tional personnel and materiel were also 
landed by small boats plying between 
Gibraltar and the southeast coast. De- 
liveries by sea were especially important 
during the winter when bad weather all 
but prevented air drops. The total 
amount of supplies sent during the year, 
however, was very small. In twelve months 
of operation, for instance, only a little 
over one ton of explosives was dropped 
to saboteurs. 8 

SOE efforts to supply the Resistance 
movements were always handicapped by 
insufficient air transport. In 1942 and 
through most of 1943 two squadrons (of 
approximately twenty aircraft each) were 
employed to carry out SOE missions. The 
SOE continually begged for more aircraft, 
but every plane assigned to it had to be 
diverted from the bomber offensive and 
the Resistance seemed like a nebulous 
kind of operation to feed at the expense 
of dropping bombs on German industry. 9 

8 Materials sent during 1942 were as follows: 2,265 
lbs. of explosives; 269 Sten guns; 388 pistols; 856 
incendiaries; 3,424 abrasive products; 630 standard 
charges (clams) ; 269 cells (food, tobacco, medical 
equipment, etc.) . FFI History, p. 351. 

9 Memo, SIS-SOE/SO Aircraft Requirements, 14 
Jan 44. SHAEF SGS file 370.64. 



202 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



Furthermore, throughout 1943 the SOE 
program to supply the Balkan guerillas 
had a higher priority than its operations 
in western Europe. All this meant that, 
although from time to time additional 
planes were available for SOE operations 
in France, the supply never kept pace with 
the growing demands from the field. 10 

These demands forced repeated ex- 
amination of what role the Resistance 
could be expected to play in the libera- 
tion of France and how much reliance 
could be placed on it. Planners tended to 
be cautious. First of all, it was difficult to 
get any accurate assessment of the actual 
or potential strength of the movement. 
Second, there was always a danger that the 
movement might be emasculated by ar- 
rests on the eve of invasion. Third, even 
though much had been done to organize 
the various patriot groups, it was certain 
that control of their activities would be 
difficult and incomplete. COSSAC, in 
drawing up the original overlord plan, 
decided to regard Resistance activities as 
a bonus and to place no reliance on them 
to accomplish strategic objectives. 11 

In criticizing the plan, the British 
Chiefs of Staff asked whether a more defi- 
nite strategic role might not be assigned 
to the Resistance. A committee represent- 
ing Army and SOE discussed the question 
and concluded that COSSAC's appraisal 
was generally fair but "it erred on the side 
of caution and did not emphasize the wide 
strategic possibilities." What the commit- 
tee was thinking of was a national upris- 
ing. It believed that the sabotage of Re- 
sistance groups could not be regarded as 
a strategic weapon unless "backed by a 
general strike or by a rising on a national 

10 FFI History, pp. 396c-96d. 

11 Outline overlord, Part II, par. 23. 



scale." Such an uprising, the committee 
thought, would be desirable from a mili- 
tary standpoint but might be politically 
objectionable. 12 

Actually there seems little doubt that 
the concept of a national uprising, which 
cropped up in discussions of Resistance 
from time to time, was always unrealistic. 
A French officer working for the OSS (Of- 
fice of Strategic Services) commented that 
the "favorite notion" of mass uprisings 
"posited the existence of universal cour- 
age, whereas courage only inspired a few 
men— as it has always inspired the few 
rather than the many. And the idea of 
mass uprisings implied battling against 
modern tanks with the stone-throwing 
catapults of Caesar's time." 13 

The decision apparently was that mass 
uprisings were at least sufficiently unlikely 
that no reliance could be placed on them. 
In February 1944 SHAEF's conclusion 
was still that Resistance activity must be 
regarded as a bonus. 14 In view of this con- 
clusion, the project of supplying the Re- 
sistance might have languished, but as a 
matter of fact it received a strong forward 
impetus. In the beginning of 1943, the 
Germans put into effect a forced labor 
draft in France. To escape this draft thou- 
sands of young Frenchmen, particularly 
in central and southern France, broke 
into open rebellion. They formed maquis 
bands in hilly and wooded regions and 
began guerrilla warfare against the Ger- 
mans and the collaborationist French 
Militia. SOE sent agents to contact these 
maquisards and began dropping arms 

12 Progress Rpt, Operation overlord, 10 Sep 43. 
SHAEF G-3 file 322-7 II, Ops C. 

13 Rpt, Analysis of the ResK'ance Movement, 9 
Dec 43. SHAEF G-3 file 370-4-1, Ops C. 

14 Memo, Bull for Morgan, 5 Feb 44. SHAEF SGS 
file 370.64 I. 



PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



203 



and supplies to them. 16 The maquis de- 
veloped into an important movement by 
the fall of 1943. The Prime Minister then 
became interested and in January or- 
dered that an additional thirty-five Brit- 
ish aircraft be made available for arming 
the maquis groups of southeastern France. 
With this new transport strength, supply 
drops in February were increased 173 per- 
cent. 16 Permanent assignments of aircraft 
for SOE use rose steadily thereafter. In 
January, 50 successful sorties were flown; 
in April, 331; in May, 531; and in June, 
866." 

The increase in the tempo of supply de- 
liveries reflected also the beginnings of 
American contributions of aircraft. In 
1943 the OSS began operating through 
agents in France. The London headquar- 
ters of SO (Special Operations branch of 
OSS) collaborated with SOE and grad- 
ually amalgamated with the British 
agency. The amalgamation was com- 
pleted by January 1944. That month U.S. 
planes flew their first successful supply 
mission into France. In late February, 
however, the chief of Special Operations, 
Col. Joseph P. Haskell, was still con- 
cerned over the small scale of the Ameri- 
can contribution. He feared especially 
the political repercussions on American- 
French relations of allowing the British 
to continue carrying the main burden of 



16 The first operation took place on 20 March 1943, 
but supplies were sent on a very meager scale until 
the fall of the year. The first agents to the maquis 
were sent in October. FFI History, pp. 362-63. 

16 Sixth Monthly Progress Report to SHAEF from 
SOE/SO Hq, London, 7 Mar 44. SHAEF SGS file 
319.1/10. The planned increase was 300 percent but 
bad weather interfered with operations. Of 400 
sorties attempted during the month only 166 were 
successful. 

17 See SOE/SO Rpts in SHAEF SGS file 319.1/10. 



supporting the Resistance. 18 The State 
Department two months later warned the 
Joint Chiefs of Staff that the impression 
was gaining ground among the French 
that, whereas the British were doing 
everything possible to arm the French 
patriots, the United States was holding 
back for political reasons. 39 Thus in May, 
twenty-five more U.S. aircraft were as- 
signed to Special Operations over the pro- 
tests of Air Marshal Sir Arthur W. Ted- 
der who, doubting the value of the Re- 
sistance movement, considered the in- 
crease unjustified. 20 

Air Marshal Tedder's doubts were un- 
questionably shared by many in the Al- 
lied command, 21 and the effectiveness of 
the Resistance as revealed after D Day was 
very generally regarded with surprise. 
There had been signs of the capabilities 
of the Resistance to undermine the Ger- 
man military power in France, particu- 
larly in the monthly reports which SOE 
and later SOE/SO headquarters submit- 
ted to COSSAC and SHAEF from the fall 
of 1943 when Special Operations was 
placed under the general control of the 
overlord command. But the signs were 
hard to read. Sabotage consisted of a num- 
ber of more or less un-co-ordinated pin- 
pricks chiefly against various war indus- 
tries working for the Germans, railroads 
and canals, and telephone and telegraph 

18 Ltr, Haskell to Donovan, 22 Feb 44. SHAEF 
SGS file 370.64 I. 

18 Cbl, JCS to Eisenhower, 17 Apr 44. SHAEF 
SGS file 370.64 I. 

2° Memo, Gen Bull for SHAEF CofS, SOE/SO 
Request for Additional Aircraft, 19 Apr 44; Memo, 
idem., Allocation of Additional Aircraft for SOE/SO 
Missions, 28 Apr 44. SHAEF SGS file 370.64 I. 

21 At COS (44) 163d Mtg (O) , 18 May 44, General 
Smith said that "latest reports" had made the Su- 
preme Commander "discount the value of French 
underground organizations." 



204 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



systems. It was difficult to add them up 
and see what they amounted to in terms 
of damaging the enemy's total defensive 
capabilities in France. 

The most continuous and probably most 
effective sabotage was that directed 
against the French railroads. Attacks were 
made to derail German troop and supply 
trains, to cut tracks, blow bridges, and 
damage locomotives. Directed by SOE/ 
SO headquarters, railway sabotage was 
greatly accelerated in 1 944 and tied in to a 
certain extent with the Allied air offen- 
sive against enemy transportation. 22 Dam- 
age done by saboteurs compared favorably 
with that inflicted from the air. In the 
first three months of 1944 the under- 
ground sabotaged 808 locomotives as com- 
pared to 387 damaged by air attack. How- 
ever, in April and May, air attack was 
stepped up and accounted for the damag- 
ing of 1,437 locomotives compared to only 
292 put out of action by saboteurs. Be- 
tween June 1943 and May 1944 a total 
of 1,822 locomotives was damaged, 200 
passenger cars destroyed, 1,500 cars dam- 
aged, 2,500 freight cars destroyed and 
8,000 damaged. 23 Reliable statistics on 
other forms of railway sabotage are incom- 
plete. A report by the Vichy police 24 re- 



22 See below, section on the Bombing of French 
Railroads. 

23 Rpt, SNCF, Les Resultats de V Action de la 
Resistance dans la SNCF, 10 Nov 44, cited in FFI 
History, pp. 1364ft. 

24 This report, captured by the Resistance, reached 
London in April 1944. SOE/SO headquarters sig- 
nificantly commented on its statistics as follows: "It 
was already known that railway sabotage was con- 
siderable but no suspicion that it had reached the 
scale stated by the police has yet reached London." 
See Rpt, Appreciation of Report by Minister of In- 
terior Vichy, Summary of Acts of Sabotage and Dis- 
order in France 25th October-25th November, 14 
Apr 44. SHAEF G-3 file 37(M-1, Ops C. 



cords that during October and November 
1943 more than 3,000 attempts were 
made by patriots to wreck some portion 
of the railway system. In November, 427 
of these were successful major operations 
which included 132 derailments. 

Despite the impressiveness of these 
figures, there remained some doubt as 
to the effect of the destruction on Ger- 
man military mobility. Since only a 
part of the capacity of the French rail- 
roads was being utilized directly by the 
German Army, much of the burden of the 
interruptions due to sabotage could be 
and undoubtedly was borne by French 
civilian traffic. 23 On the other hand, 
Rundstedt in October 1943 noted with 
alarm the "rapid increase" in rail sabotage 
which he attributed to the heavy supply 
of arms and explosives that the British 
had parachuted to Resistance groups. He 
reported that in September there were 
534 acts of sabotage against railroads as 
compared to a monthly average of 130 
during the first half of the year. Although 
he did not assess the effect of this sabotage 
on his general preparedness for invasion, 
he made it clear that it was cause for con- 
cern, which would become more serious 
at the time of the Allied assault. 26 A meas- 
ure of its seriousness was the partial sub- 
stitution of German uniformed railway 
workers for employees of the SNCF 
(Societe National des Chemins de Fer). 
Between February and June 20,000 Ger- 



25 In the spring of 1944 the directors of the SNCF 
were apparently unconvinced of the value of rail 
sabotage which they felt was costing the French 
more than the Germans. See G-2 Summary of Info, 
French Railways, 11 Apr 44. SHAEF G-3 file GCT 
370-14, Ops C. 

26 Rundstedt Report, 25 Oct 43. See above, Ch. IV, 
n. 2. 



PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



205 



man workers were brought in chiefly to 
check locomotive sabotage. 27 

As D Day approached, SOE/SO head- 
quarters became more concerned with co- 
ordinating rail sabotage to relate directly 
to forthcoming military operations. It 
was not expected that Resistance groups 
could seriously interfere with the move- 
ment of local enemy reserves in the 
bridgehead area. The Germans had in ef- 
fect quarantined the coastal strip to a 
depth of about thirty to forty miles in- 
land, and the Normandy Resistance 
groups, as a result, were weak and scat- 
tered. Work on the fortifications was done 
either by German labor, or by Frenchmen 
carefully checked for loyalty. Any stran- 
gers were immediately suspect and sub- 
ject to arrest. Such organized groups as 
did exist were difficult to supply because 
of the heavy concentration of antiaircraft 
guns in the coastal zone. Outside the area, 
however, it was thought the Resistance 
might operate effectively to delay the 
movement of strategic reserves into the 
battle zone. The Resistance was therefore 
directed to prepare demolitions to be 
blown on order to cut the main trunk 
lines leading into the lodgment area. 28 

The plan for cutting the critical mili- 
tary railroads (Plan Vert) was supple- 
mented by a plan to interfere with road 
traffic (Plan Tortue). Both were de- 
veloped by the BCRA under the general 
direction of SOE/SO headquarters. Ap- 
proved by SHAEF, these plans were cir- 



27 OKW/WFSt, KTB Ausarbeitung, Die Entwick- 
lung im Westen vom 1. 1. -31. III. 44. See below, n. 115. 

28 The Development of Resistance Groups with 
Reference to the Land Fighting in "overlord," 15 
Feb 44. SHAEF G-3 file 370-14, Ops C; FFI History, 
pp. 80ff; cf. Ninth Monthly Progress Report to 
SHAEF from SFHQ, London, May 1944, 10 Jun 44. 
SHAEF SGS file 319.1/10. 



culated to agents in the field, and sabo- 
teurs began placing their demolitions. It 
soon became apparent that effective road 
sabotage would require a large amount 
of heavy equipment which could not be 
delivered in time. Plan Tortue was there- 
fore converted into a project for blocking 
enemy road movements through guerrilla 
action. 29 As such, it contributed to the 
Allied victories after D Day. During 
the preparation period, however, more 
emphasis was placed on the rail plan. In 
May SOE/SO headquarters reported that 
571 rail targets were ready for demolition 
and 30 road cuts were prepared. 30 In ad- 
dition to accomplishing the specific acts 
of active sabotage, Resistance leaders 
hoped to complete the disorganization of 
the French railroads by planned non-co- 
operation of the railroad trade union and 
management. 31 It was estimated that in 
those ways serious dislocation of rail traf- 
fic in France might be maintained for 
eight to ten days after the Allied landings. 

Since the date of the invasion could not 
be given to the Resistance in advance, ar- 
rangements were made to order the execu- 
tion of sabotage plans by code messages 
broadcast by the BBC. Organizers were 
instructed to listen to BBC broadcasts on 
the 1st, 2d, 15th, and 16th of each month. 
If the invasion was then imminent, they 
would hear a preparatory code message. 
They would then remain on the alert 
listening for a confirmatory message "B." 



28 FFI History, p. 83. 

80 Report from SFHQ, cited n. 28. SOE and SO in 
April were amalgamated into a single headquarters 
with the title Special Force Headquarters. 

81 See Plan Vert, text in FFI History, pp. 175-87. 
The SNCF was generally disposed to co-operate with 
the Allies in passive resistance to the Germans. Re- 
sistance groups found many recruits among the em- 
ployees of the railroads. 



206 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



Forty-eight hours after message "B," code 
phrases would be broadcast directing that 
the various sabotage plans be put into ef- 
fect. Since each of the plans had been 
drawn on a regional basis and each of the 
Resistance regions had separate code ar- 
rangements, it would have been possible 
to localize the sabotage activity in direct 
support of the landings. It was SHAEF's 
view, however, that it was preferable to 
obtain the maximum amount of chaos be- 
hind the enemy lines at the moment of 
landing, and therefore the signals ac- 
tually used set all sabotage plans in mo- 
tion at once. 32 This decision reflected 
again the reluctance of Allied headquar- 
ters to depend on Resistance activity as a 
precision weapon to be used against 
specific objectives related to the general 
plan. 

As a matter of fact, the post-D-Day 
rail-cutting program of the Resistance 
was extraordinarily effective. During 
June a total of 486 rail cuts was reported. 
On D plus 1 twenty-six trunk lines were 
unusable, including the main lines be- 
tween Avranches and St. L6, between St. 
L6 and Cherbourg, and between St. L6 
and Caen. All were sabotaged with 
multiple cuts. Road sabotage achieved at 
least one notable success in delaying the 
movement of the 2d SS Panzer Division 
from the south into the overlord lodg- 
ment area. 33 

Plans for employing the Resistance in 
action against the enemy after the land- 
ing included not only sabotage but di- 
rect military action. It was hoped that the 



32 FFI History, p. 388. German agents broke the 
codes. For German reaction, see below, Ch. VIII. 

33 Tenth Monthly Report to SHAEF from SFHQ, 
London, June 1944, 10 Jul 44. SHAEF SGS file 319- 
.1/10; FFI History, p. 1474. See below, Ch. X. 



maquis and possibly other Resistance 
groups might be able to engage some 
enemy forces in the interior which would 
otherwise be employed against the U.S. 
and British armies. The exact military 
employment of the underground obvi- 
ously could not be planned in advance 
since its strength in any given location 
could not even be estimated. However, 
the bonus of having friendly forces be- 
hind the enemy's lines was considered suf- 
ficiently likely and sufficiently valuable 
that extensive preparations were made to 
develop and control it. In March 1944, 
SHAEF issued a comprehensive directive 
to the newly designated Special Force 
Headquarters on the use of Resistance 
groups in support of overlord. 34 In late 
May and early June headquarters and 
staff of the FFI (Forces Francaises de 
I'lnterieur) were established under com- 
mand of Gen. Joseph Pierre Koenig. Koe- 
nig set up a tripartite staff (French, U.S., 
British) in London and made plans for 
employing the FFI as one component of 
the Allied armies under the Supreme Al- 
lied Commander. 35 

But although Koenig became a regu- 
larly constituted military commander his 
army remained nebulous. Because of the 
danger of compromising the security of 
Allied plans, it was impossible even to at- 
tempt to organize the FFI for specific mili- 
tary missions in advance of D Day. There- 
fore, in order to encourage Resistance 
groups to organize themselves for military 
action and to get orders to them, three- 
man teams (Jedburghs) consisting of one 
French and one U.S. or British officer and 

34 SHAEF (44) 25, Operational Directive to SFHQ, 
23 Mar 44. SHAEF G-3 file 322-8, Ops C. 

35 Ltr, Koenig to Gen Smith, Commandement et 
Organisation des Forces Franfaises de I'lnterieur, 9 
Jan 44. SHAEF SGS file 322 (FFI) . 



PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



207 



a radio operator were formed to be para- 
chuted in uniform behind enemy lines 
starting shortly before D Day. The sole as- 
signed function of the Jedburghs was to 
provide communication links with the 
FFI command. On occasion, however, 
they were able to supply useful leadership 
for the groups to which they were at- 
tached. About a hundred Jedburgh teams 
were organized and eighty-seven of these 
were operational in France at one time or 
another. 36 

A major handicap of the Resistance for 
military action was its inadequate arma- 
ment, and especially its lack of heavy 
weapons. Partly to remedy this, both the 
Americans and the British organized spe- 
cial, heavily armed units to be parachuted 
behind the lines after operations began. 
They were to be used either independ- 
ently on tactical missions or more often to 
stiffen the local Resistance groups. The 
American units were called Operational 
Groups and consisted of four officers and 
thirty enlisted men, entirely U.S. person- 
nel. Eleven of these groups were sent to 
France after D Day, five from England 
and six from North Africa. British equiv- 
alent units were much larger. These were 
the SAS (Special Air Service) troops whose 
operations were directed by Lt. Gen. F. 
A. M. Browning, Commander of Air- 
borne Troops. Comprising almost 2,000 
men, they included two SAS regiments of 
British personnel, two French parachute 
battalions, and a Belgian independent 
company. The SAS achieved notable suc- 
cess with the well-organized Resistance 
movement in Brittany, and in addition 
was able to carry out useful sabotage of 
railroads leading to the battle areas. 37 

86 FFI History, pp. 364-65. 
37 Ibid., pp. 365, 544. 



It is impossible to appraise the contri- 
bution of the Resistance toward soften- 
ing the enemy in France before the inva- 
sion. Not only was there no systematic re- 
cording of the facts of their operations, 
but there was, in any case, no satisfactory 
yardstick by which to measure the effec- 
tiveness of an irregular force, whose role 
was strategic rather than tactical. Cer- 
tainly the Resistance impaired the Ger- 
man military power both materially and 
morally. A fighter with a bee in his 
breeches is evidently not at his best. But 
just how much the bee contributes to his 
defeat is a question to which statistical 
method can hardly apply. 

The Combined Bomber Offensive 

Up to the end of 1 942, bombing of Ger- 
man military targets was carried out with- 
out any clear-cut directive as to target 
systems, aims, or timing. Although target 
priorities had been sketched for the 
Eighth Air Force by the theater com- 
mander, the task of integrating the oper- 
ations of both U.S. and British air forces 
according to a combined plan with a com- 
bined objective was first attempted at 
Casablanca in January 1943. 38 The Com- 
bined Chiefs of Staff then agreed to order 
U.S. and British strategic air forces based 
in the United Kingdom to initiate a 
"Combined Bomber Offensive" whose 
object would be "the progressive destruc- 
tion and dislocation of the German mili- 



88 Ltr, CofS Eighth AF to CG VIII Bomber Com- 
mand and VIII Fighter Command, Objectives for 
Operations Eighth Air Force, 20 Oct 42; Ltr, Eaker to 
CG ETOUSA, 31 Dec 43, exhibit 2, Report of Lt. 
Gen. Ira C. Eaker on U.S. Army Air Forces Activi- 
ties in United Kingdom Covering Period from Febru- 
ary 20, 1942 to December 31, 1943 (cited hereafter 
as Eaker Rpt) . AAF file 520.101 A. 



208 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



tary, industrial and economic systems, and 
the undermining of the morale of the 
German people to a point where their ca- 
pacity for armed resistance is fatally weak- 
ened." 39 

This dual aim recognized the divergent 
doctrines of the American and British air 
forces. The Americans believed that, 
through daylight precision bombing, crit- 
ical sections of German industry could be 
destroyed so effectively as to dislocate 
the economic system and paralyze the 
German war machine. The British, feel- 
ing that daylight bombing would prove 
too costly, put their faith in night area 
bombing designed to destroy whole crit- 
ical industrial and military areas. The 
Prime Minister tried at Casablanca to get 
the Americans to adopt the British view 
on the use of air power and persuade 
them to use the Eighth Air Force for night 
bombing to reinforce directly the opera- 
tions of the RAF. General Eaker and 
General Arnold defeated the suggestions, 
and the Casablanca directive recognized 
the separate operations of the two air 
forces as two different but complemen- 
tary contributions to a single task. 40 

The primary objectives for both air 
forces in the new combined offensive 
were: (1) submarine construction yards, 
(2) aircraft industry, (3) transporta- 
tion, (4) oil plants, (5) other enemy war 
industry. It was provided that these pri- 
orities might be "varied from time to 
time according to developments in the 
strategical situation." Further flexibility 
was provided in that the targets listed 



39 CCS 166/I/D, The Bomber Offensive from the 
United Kingdom, 21 Jan 43. Approved at CCS 65th 
Mtg, 21 Jan 43. 

40 Eaker Rpt, cited n. 38; cf. Craven and Cate, The 
Army Air Forces, II, 227, 301. 



were to be attacked "subject to the exi- 
gencies of weather and of tactical feasi- 
bility." 41 They might also be supple- 
mented by "other objectives of great 
importance either from the political or 
military point of view." These "other 
objectives" were not defined, but the two 
examples given— submarine bases in the 
Bay of Biscay, and the city of Berlin- 
could have been taken to bracket a wide 
range of targets. 

The Casablanca directive, though for- 
mally initiating the Combined Bomber 
Offensive, did not produce any immedi- 
ate action. The Eighth Air Force, having 
depleted its ranks in order to found and 
nourish the Twelfth Air Force in the 
Mediterranean, remained for about six 
months desperately short of planes and 
men. It was not until the late spring of 
1943 that the air force build-up in the 
United Kingdom resumed the tempo in- 
terrupted by the development of the 
Mediterranean theater, and it was only 
then that the Combined Bomber Offen- 
sive was implemented by a detailed plan. 

The plan had been in the making 
since December 1 942 when a Committee 
of Operations Analysts was appointed by 
General Arnold to prepare a report "ana- 
lyzing the rate of progressive deteriora- 
tion that should be anticipated in the 
German war effort as a result of . . . in- 
creasing air operations . . . against its sus- 
taining sources." 42 The committee on 8 
March 1943 reported nineteen enemy 

41 The principal limitation of "tactical feasibility" 
was the short range of all combat planes which, as 
long as the air forces were relatively small, largely 
prevented bomber sorties deep into Germany. 

42 Ltr, Arnold to ACofS Management Control, Re- 
search and Analysis to Fix Earliest Practicable Date 
for Invasion of Western Europe, 9 Dec 42. AAF file 
3842-2, Tabs for History. 



PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



209 



industrial systems vulnerable to air at- 
tack. 43 Endorsed by the Eighth Air Force 
and the British Air Ministry, the commit- 
tee's findings were embodied in a formal 
agreed plan which General Eaker sub- 
mitted to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. From 
the nineteen target systems listed by the 
operations analysts, the air forces picked 
six key enemy industries, including sev- 
enty-six precision targets. The systems se- 
lected for attack were in order of priority: 
submarine construction yards and bases, 
aircraft industry, ball bearings, oil, syn- 
thetic rubber and tires, and military 
transport vehicles. Destruction of the 
seventy-six targets, it was believed, would 
result in elimination of 89 percent of 
the enemy's submarine industry, 43 per- 
cent of his fighter aircraft production, 
65 percent of his bomber production, 
76 percent of the ball bearing industry, 48 
percent of his refined oil products, 50 per- 
cent of his synthetic rubber, and all of 
his tire production. "The cumulative 
effect," said General Eaker, "will 'fatally 
weaken' the capacity of the German 
people for armed resistance." 44 

There were initial difficulties, how- 
ever. General Eaker noted that the air 
forces' ability to carry out the planned 
program depended on rendering German 
fighter defenses ineffective. Actually, de- 
spite heavy losses, enemy fighter strength 
in the spring of 1943 was still increasing 
rapidly. If the increase continued at that 
rate, it was expected the Germans would 
have 3,000 fighter aircraft by January 
1944. It was, General Eaker reported, 



43 Memo for Gen Arnold, Report of Committee 
of Operations Analysts with Respect to Economic 
Targets within the Western Axis, 8 Mar 43. AAF file 
3842-2, Tabs for History. 

44 JCS Spec Mtg, 29 Apr 43. 



"quite conceivable" that such an increase 
"could make our daylight bombing un- 
profitable and perhaps our night bomb- 
ing too." 45 The destruction of German 
fighter aircraft was therefore made an 
"intermediate objective second to none 
in priority." 46 

The Joint Chiefs of Staff accepted the 
plan outlined by General Eaker, and ap- 
proved his requests for aircraft and per- 
sonnel to carry it out. 47 The Combined 
Chiefs endorsed the plan on 18 May 1943 
at the Washington Conference. 48 Finally 
the directive to initiate the planned 
offensive was issued on 10 June by Air 
Marshal Portal, British Chief of Air Staff, 
who had strategic direction over com- 
bined air operations. 49 Air Marshal 
Portal interpreted the new plan to mean 
an all-out offensive against the German 
fighter air force and directed the Eighth 
Air Force to attack air-frame and engine 
factories and industries associated with 
them, as well as aircraft repair depots, 
storage parks, and enemy fighter planes 
in the air and on the ground. These at- 
tacks were declared of primary impor- 
tance and the order was that nothing 
should interfere with them. Only when 

45 Ibid. 

46 CCS 217, Plan for Combined Bomber Offensive 
from the United Kingdom, 14 May 43. 

47 JCS 77th Mtg, 4 May 43; JPS 174/1, Plan for 
Combined Bomber Offensive from the United King- 
dom, 2 May 43. 

48 CCS 87th Mtg, 18 May 43. 

49 As by agreement at Casablanca, CCS 65th Mtg; 
cf. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces, II, 304. 
The RAF was senior in experience and, at this time, 
preponderant in numbers. "Strategic direction" was 
never clearly defined nor was Air Marshal Portal 
ever given any clear-cut directive. In fact, however, 
he exercised ad hoc command over the strategic air 
forces as agent of the Combined Chiefs. The directive 
of 10 June was issued as a letter by Air Vice Marshal 
N. H. Bottomley to Air Force Commanders. Copy 
in Eaker Rpt. 



210 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



"tactical and weather conditions" pre- 
vented attacks against enemy fighter 
plane targets should aircraft be used 
against what nominally remained the 
"primary objective"— submarine con- 
struction yards and operating bases. 

The new offensive was slow in getting 
started. Between 1 July and 15 Novem- 
ber the Eighth Air Force dropped 22,667 
tons of bombs, but of these only 1,903 
tons hit the enemy aircraft industry de- 
spite its overriding priority as a target. 50 
In part, this relatively insignificant effort 
was due to bad weather during the fall 
and winter months. In part, it was due to 
the location of most German aircraft 
plants beyond U.S. fighter range, which 
made bombing prohibitively costly. Two 
raids on 17 August against the ball bear- 
ing plants at Schweinf urt and the Messer- 
schmitt fighter aircraft factory at Regens- 
burg demonstrated the impracticability 
at that time of deep penetrations by 
small forces. Losses on the Schweinfurt 
raid were 36 planes out of 300, or 12 per- 
cent, and on the Regensburg raid 24 
planes out of 174, or almost 14 percent. 
These figures did not include damage. 
Repetition of the Schweinfurt raid on 14 
October resulted in losses of more than a 
quarter of the attacking aircraft. 51 Al- 
though the importance of individual tar- 
gets might warrant acceptance of such 
losses, they were prohibitive if applied 
to any large portion of the routine bomb- 
ing offensive. 

While recognizing the difficulties, Gen- 
eral Arnold severely criticized the whole 

60 Study by ACof AS, The Strategic Aerial Bombard- 
ment of Europe, 10 Dec 43. AAF file 2481-2. 

61 Hq Eighth Air Force, Target Priorities of the 
Eighth Air Force, 15 May 45. AAF file 520.317A. 



record of accomplishment during the last 
half of 1943. Not only were the attacks 
on the enemy aircraft industry disap- 
pointingly small, but in general a far 
greater effort was devoted to secondary 
targets than to those whose destruction 
would vitally affect Germany's ability to 
continue the war. Only four vital indus- 
tries, he said, were attacked and they 
were hit with only 20 percent of the 
total bomb tonnage. 52 

General Eaker believed these strictures 
were unfair. Reporting in December 
1943 on the progress of the Combined 
Bomber Offensive, Eaker said that, while 
only 62 percent of the planned forces for 
the offensive had been allotted, 66 per- 
cent of the task was already accom- 
plished. 53 Presumably that meant that 
66 percent of the planned targets had 
been hit. But, since the objective of the 
offensive was not merely to hit targets 
but to destroy them and so dislocate Ger- 
man war industry and "fatally weaken" 
enemy morale, the statistics were neither 
a reliable measure of accomplishment 
nor a fair indication of the job remaining 
to be done. Although it was reasonably 
certain that the Germans had been hurt 
by Allied bombing during 1943, it was 
not true in December that only one-third 
more bombing on the 1943 scale re- 
mained to complete the task outlined by 
the plan for the Combined Bomber 
Offensive. 

A more accurate measure of achieve- 
ment was difficult to discover. From in- 
telligence sources, the British Ministry of 
Economic Warfare and the Air Ministry 
attempted to estimate the effect of bomb- 

62 Foreword by Gen Arnold to Study cited n. 50. 

63 Eaker Rpt. 



PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



211 



ing on the total German war potential. 
They were optimistic. They thought the 
German war potential had been reduced 
by about 10 percent and that a "total 
decline of 20% in overall effort may well 
be fatal." The job, in other words, was 
about half done. Still more optimis- 
tically the report noted a "very much 
greater decline in some individual in- 
dustries (e.g., ball-bearings and rubber), 
which may be near the point where they 
could cause the collapse of the whole 
war machine." 54 Even if it were assumed 
that the intelligence reports on which 
that estimate was based were entirely 
accurate and complete, the significance 
of the conclusion still remained as dubi- 
ous as a doctor's pronouncement that his 
patient was 50 percent dead. Enemy 
capacity for, and speed in, convalescence 
was always an unknown factor. 

Despite the general optimism in the 
theater at the end of 1943 over the effects 
to date of Allied bombing, it was recog- 
nized that the future hung in the bal- 
ance of the still-unsettled battle for air 
supremacy. By fall, the bombing attacks 
had forced the enemy to keep about half 
of his whole force of fighter aircraft in 
the west. At the same time Eighth Air 
Force claims of enemy fighters destroyed 
in combat were estimated at 75 percent 
of current German production. 55 On the 

64 Joint Rpt by Min of Econ Warfare and the Air 
Min Int Branch, in Rpt by CofAS and CG U.S. 
Eighth AF on progress made by the RAF and U.S. 
Eighth AF in Combined Bomber Offensive, 7 Nov 
43. AAF file 520.318. Ball bearing output was esti- 
mated by the Eighth Air Force A-2 to be down to 
75 percent of preattack levels. See Supplement to 
the Strategic Aerial Bombardment of Europe — Ac- 
complishments and Potentialities, 1 Apr 44. AAF file 
2481-1. 

66 ACofAS Study, cited n. 50. 



other hand, since relatively few direct 
attacks were made on fighter production 
plants, German fighter strength was in- 
creasing despite losses. 56 The heavy U.S. 
losses in the Schweinfurt raid in October 
demonstrated that, despite attrition of 
German fighters in combat, Allied air 
forces still did not have air superiority 
over more than the fringes of enemy- 
occupied territory. 57 

General Arnold, commenting on the 
situation at the end of 1943, said: "It is 
difficult to appraise the present struggle 
for air supremacy as representing any- 
thing short of a major turning point in 
the war. What American and Royal Air 
Force bombers can do to the whole Ger- 
man war machine, once the German 
fighting force is rendered impotent, 
needs no comment. The issue hangs now 
on which side first falters, weakens, and 
loses its punishing power." 58 Whether 
victory in the battle for air supremacy 
was regarded as a prelude to decisive stra- 
tegic bombing or preparation for over- 
lord, it was accepted as of paramount 
importance. 

With the idea of intensifying the 
bomber offensive, the Joint Chiefs of 
Staff in November proposed a revision of 
the plan to bring it up to date with the 
changed strategic situation. The relative 
importance of targets had changed since 
Casablanca. Submarine construction, for 
example, was no longer entitled to pri- 
ority, both because the danger from U- 
boats had been greatly reduced by meas- 
ures to combat them at sea and because 
in general the bombing of factories and 

56 Eaker Rpt. 

57 Target Priorities, 15 May 45, cited n. 51. 
68 Rpt, CG AAF to SW, 4 Jan 44. 



212 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



pens had hitherto proved ineffective. 59 
New air bases had been acquired in Italy 
on which strategic bombers could be 
based and a new Mediterranean strategic 
air force (the Fifteenth) had been estab- 
lished. It thus became necessary to co- 
ordinate attacks and target priorities be- 
tween the United Kingdom and Mediter- 
ranean-based air forces. Finally the over- 
lord D Day was approaching and time 
to establish the prerequisite air suprem- 
acy was short. 60 

After some debate between the U.S. 
and British Chiefs of Staff over the ad- 
visability of concentrating on the Axis 
oil industry, a new directive was issued 
by the Combined Chiefs on 1 3 February 
1944. The new directive dropped out 
the sytem of primary, secondary, and in- 
termediate objectives. U.S. and British 
bomber commands were ordered to ac- 
complish the "depletion of the German 
air force ... by all means available." 
Although other objectives were listed, 
the order clearly shifted emphasis away 
from the earlier general aim of dislo- 
cating enemy industry to the specific task 
of destroying the enemy air force. 61 



69 During 1943, 41.8 percent of the total Eighth 
Air Force bomb tonnage (21,362 tons) was dropped 
on enemy submarine yards and bases. General Eaker 
estimated that the net result of this large expendi- 
ture was to prevent 22 out of 200 new submarines 
from being built. Eaker Rpt. Cf. Memo for CofAS, 
Evaluation of Results of Strategic Bombardment 
Against the Western Axis, 27 Jan 44, Tab 56 of Com- 
mittee of Operations Analysts, COA History, MS. 
AAF files. COA's conclusion was that though "heavy 
attacks have been delivered against submarine manu- 
facture and submarine operating bases, the results 
of these attacks have not been at all proportional to 
the effort expended." 

60 JCS 563, Modifications of Directive for the 
Bomber Offensive, 4 Nov 43. 

61 CCS 166/11, Revised Directive for Combined 
Bomber Offensive, 13 Feb 44. 



In October 1943 the U.S. Chiefs of 
Staff had proposed the establishment of 
a strategic air force in the Mediterranean. 
It was observed that the Germans were 
meeting the air offensive from England 
by moving critical industries to the south- 
east and at the same time establishing a 
strong fighter shield in the northwest. 62 
Eighth Air Force losses mounted in 
October to a point where General Mar- 
shall expressed himself as "deeply con- 
cerned" over them. 63 It was felt that 
these losses could be reduced if the 
enemy were forced to disperse his fighters 
in order to guard against bombing sor- 
ties from the Mediterranean. General 
Eisenhower was accordingly ordered to 
regroup the Twelfth Air Force under his 
command to form the Twelfth Tactical 
Air Force and the Fifteenth Strategic Air 
Force. The latter, consisting initially 
of six heavy bomber groups and two 
groups of long-range fighters, would be 
under the general direction of the Com- 
bined Chiefs of Staff and would be em- 
ployed primarily against Combined 
Bomber Offensive targets. 64 The plan was 
to build up the Fifteenth Air Force by 31 
March 1944 to twenty-one groups of 
heavy bombers, seven groups of fighters, 
and one group of reconnaissance air- 
craft. 65 



62 JCS 524, Plan to Assure the Most Effective Ex- 
ploitation of the Combined Bomber Offensive, 9 
Oct 43. 

63 JCS 125th Mtg, 29 Oct 43. Bomber losses in 
October amounted to 9.2 percent of the aircraft en- 
tering enemy territory. See Statistical Summary of 
Eighth Air Force Operations — European Theater, 17 
Aug 1942-8 May 1945. AAF file 520.308A. 

64 The Mediterranean theater commander was to 
be allowed to use the units then assigned to the 
Twelfth Air Force in support of theater operations 
until the base objective north and east of Rome had 
been secured. 

86 CCS 217/1, 19 Oct 43. 



PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



213 



As soon as the Fifteenth Air Force was 
formed, doubts occurred as to the effec- 
tiveness of the machinery provided for 
co-ordinating attacks from the Mediter- 
ranean and the United Kingdom. Neither 
the liaison between Fifteenth and Eighth 
Air Force headquarters nor the "general 
direction" of the Combined Chiefs was 
thought adequate for the most effective 
exploitation of the whole offensive. The 
Joint Chiefs of Staff therefore proposed 
a U.S. strategic air command with head- 
quarters in England charged with control 
of all U.S. strategic air operations in the 
European-Mediterranean area. 68 Ini- 
tially directly under the Combined 
Chiefs, the new headquarters would later 
be subordinated to the Supreme Allied 
Commander for overlord. The original 
conception was that the Strategic Air 
Forces should command at first only U.S. 
forces but would, some time before D 
Day, take in RAF Bomber Command and 
constitute a strategic air command under 
the Supreme Allied Commander parallel 
to the tactical organization of the 
AEAF. 67 The U.S. proposal, so far as it 
concerned unification of U.S. air forces, 
was given to the British Chiefs of Staff 
for comment at the Cairo conference of 
November 1943. The British objected 
chiefly on the grounds that the new set- 
up would destroy the close co-ordination 
between the Eighth Air Force and RAF 
through the British Chief of Air Staff. 
They proposed instead that the authority 
of Air Marshal Portal should be ex- 
tended to give him general direction of 



68 JCS 602, Integrated Command of U.S. Strategic 
Air Forces in the European-Mediterranean Area, 16 
Nov 43. 

67 JCS 601, Strategic Air Force Command in Opera- 
tions Against Germany, 13 Nov 43. 



the whole bomber offensive against Ger- 
many. 68 The British objections could be 
considered only as advice, however, since 
Portal freely granted that organization 
of U.S. forces was the exclusive preroga- 
tive of the U.S. Chiefs of Staff. Since the 
U.S. Chiefs of Staff did not consider the 
advice sound, they proceeded according 
to their original proposals and ordered 
the establishment in England of head- 
quarters of the U.S. Strategic Air Forces 
in Europe (USSAFE) 89 under command 
of Lt. Gen. Carl Spaatz. At the same time 
that USSAFE was established, General 
Eaker was transferred to command of the 
U.S. Mediterranean air forces and Lt. 
Gen. James H. Doolittle took over the 
Eighth Air Force. 70 

When General Spaatz arrived in Eng- 
land in January the Eighth Air Force 
was in the midst of its rapid build-up 
which had begun in the spring of 1943. 
There were then operating (as of 3 1 De- 
cember 1943) twenty-five groups of 
heavy bombers plus three squadrons 
(which in March became a training 
unit) and eleven groups of fighters." 71 
Two of the latter groups were equipped 
with P-38's which, with additional wing 
gasoline tanks, had a range great enough 
to accompany bombers deep into Ger- 
many. The build-up of long-range fight- 
ers increased rapidly in the early months 



68 It was JCS 602 (see n. 66) that was submitted 
to the British as CCS 400. British reply is CCS 400/1, 
26 Nov 43. It may be supposed that British objections 
were also connected with their previously expressed 
opposition to subordinating strategic air forces to 
SAC. 

69 Later redesignated U.S. Strategic Air Forces 
(USSTAF) . 

70 Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces, II, 749- 
56. 

71 Statistical Summary of Eighth Air Force Opera- 
tions, cited n. 63. 



214 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



of 1944. At the same time belly tanks 
and wing tanks were added to all types 
of fighters to permit them to escort 
bombers at ever extending radii from 
their United Kingdom bases. By March 
the Eighth Air Force was strong enough 
so that bombing missions were deliber- 
ately planned to provoke air battles with 
the Luftwaffe. A series of large-scale 
raids on Berlin was inaugurated chiefly 
for this purpose, and though the bomber 
losses at first were fairly heavy (the maxi- 
mum was sixty-nine on one raid) enemy 
resistance was at last crushed, and on the 
final missions over the German capital 
enemy fighters no longer flew to the at- 
tack. 72 The peak of German fighter de- 
fense was reached and passed in February 
1944, and even in that month the enemy 
was not able to inflict losses on U.S. 
bombers on a scale large enough to deter 
them from continued operations. 73 By 
June U.S. bombers had virtually free 
range of the skies and could bomb stra- 
tegic targets at will. 

While the Eighth Air Force with the 
RAF Bomber Command achieved mas- 
tery of the air over western Europe, the 
tactical air forces were being built up to 
exploit this advantage in direct support 
of overlord. In April 1943 General 
Eaker drew up plans to expand the Air 
Support Command of the Eighth Air 
Force for tactical operations. These 
plans were studied and revised during 
the summer. The outcome in the fall 
was a decision to set up a separate U.S. 

72 Study No. 59 by U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, 
Military Analysis Division, The Defeat of the Ger- 
man Air Force. AAF file 137.306. 

73 Plan signed by Gen Anderson and transmitted 
to Eisenhower and Portal, Plan for the Completion 
of the Combined Bomber Offensive, 5 Mar 44. AAF 
files; cf. Diary of CinC, 25 Feb 44. 



tactical air force comprising four major 
commands: the medium bomber, fighter, 
air service, and troop carrier commands. 
Lt. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton, commander 
of the Ninth Air Force in the Middle 
East, was ordered to England with his 
staff but minus his troops and aircraft. 74 
On 16 October 1943 the Ninth Air Force 
was reconstituted in England, absorbing 
the Tactical Command of the Eighth Air 
Force. The latter contributed initially 
four understrength medium bomber 
groups and several reconnaissance squad- 
rons. 75 The new Ninth Air Force grew 
rapidly during the first six months of 
1944. By 1 June it controlled eighteen 
groups of fighters, eleven groups of me- 
dium bombers, fourteen groups of trans- 
ports, and two groups of reconnaissance 
aircraft. 76 

The Ninth Air Force was expressly 
constituted to support the overlord 
ground battle and on 15 December 1943, 
as noted, it came under the operational 
control of Air Marshal Leigh-Mallory's 

74 General Brereton, Annapolis graduate in the 
class of 1911, transferred to the Army after complet- 
ing the Naval Academy course and, in World War I, 
saw Air Corps service. In 1941, after heading the 
Third Air Force in Florida, he was sent to the Philip- 
pine Islands as commander of the American Air 
Forces in the Far East. Early the following year he 
was appointed head of the Tenth Air Force in India. 
In June 1942 he was transferred to Egypt and as- 
sumed command of the Middle East Air Force, which 
in November became the Ninth Air Force including 
all U.S. Army Air Force units in the Middle East. 
General Brereton was given command of U.S. Army 
Forces in the Middle East, in addition to his Air 
Force post, in late January 1943. He held the two 
commands until he and his staff were ordered to 
England. 

75 Col William B. Reed (Exec CofS, Ninth AF) , 
The Ninth Air Force in the European Theater of 
Operations, MS. AAF files. 

76 [Lt Col Robert H. George] Ninth Air Force, 
April to November 1944 (Army Air Forces Historical 
Studies: No. 36) , MS, p. 81. AAF files. 



PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



215 



AEAF. It was provided, however, that 
long-range fighters under Ninth Air 
Force command would support the 
Eighth Air Force bomber offensive until 
overlord began. At the same time the 
medium bombers were to reinforce the 
attack against the Luftwaffe by raiding 
enemy coastal airfields and so driving 
enemy fighters inland. 77 Such raids were 
carried out with particular effectiveness 
in the spring just before the invasion. 
But throughout the winter the medium 
bombers were largely diverted to attack 
the German V-bomb launching sites, the 
neutralization of which became for a time 
the priority mission of the entire AEAF. 

Sites for launching pilotless aircraft 
were observed to be under construction 
in the summer of 1943, especially in the 
Pas-de-Calais area. By the middle of De- 
cember photographic reconnaissance had 
confirmed the existence of sixty-nine 
sites. 78 It was then estimated that the 
enemy might be able to begin a full-scale 
flying-bomb attack against England in 
February. The prospective enemy opera- 
tion was called crossbow. 

Instructions were issued to the AEAF 
to bomb all sites that were more than half 
completed. In addition, certain sites were 
assigned to the RAF Bomber Command 
for night attack. Finally, orders issued 
on 1 5 December to the Eighth Air Force 
assigned "overriding priority" to attacks 
on crossbow sites whenever weather con- 
ditions over northern France were suit- 
able. The decision to divert any portion 
of the strategic air forces away from the 
primary mission of defeating the Luft- 
waffe was a measure of the seriousness 
with which the Allies viewed the enemy 

77 Reed, The Ninth Air Force, cited n. 75. 

78 COS (43) 760 (O) , crossbow, 17 Dec 43. 



threat to the security of the British Isles 
and overlord preparations. 79 

Air attacks against the enemy crossbow 
launching sites, beginning in December, 
continued until the last of the sites was 
captured by the invading forces. Before 
D Day the tactical and strategic air forces 
flew more than 30,000 sorties against 
crossbow installations and estimated that 
they had succeeded in neutralizing 
eighty-six out of ninety-seven identified 
sites. At least seventy-four other sites, 
however, were not detected by Allied 
intelligence before the landings. The 
effectiveness of this program is difficult to 
estimate. Counterattack against the Ger- 
man rocket certainly postponed its use 
and reduced the scale of the eventual at- 
tack on London in June 1944. 80 

Long before the success of the AEAF 
air offensive became apparent, however, 
the seriousness of the crossbow threat 
was largely discounted. The flurry of 
alarm in December was within a month 
replaced by sober estimates which cal- 
culated that, on the basis of the most 
generous assessments of German produc- 
tion capacity, the flying bombs could not 
be produced in quantity sufficient for a 
major offensive against London or 
against staging areas and ports to be used 
for mounting overlord. For example, 
intelligence reckoned that the largest 
conceivable enemy sustained attack on 
London might mean that the average 



78 /bid.; cf. COS (43) 312th Mtg (O) , 22 Dec 43. 
At this meeting the Chiefs of Staff discussed the pos- 
sibility of dispersing overlord shipping to minimize 
the risks from expected crossbow attacks. 

80 "Despatch by Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford 
Leigh-Mallory" (submitted to the Supreme Allied 
Commander in November 1944) , Fourth Supple- 
ment to The London Gazette, No. 37838, 31 December 
1946, pp. 53-54. 




V BOMB OVER LONDON, JUNE 1944. Most of these pihtless aircraft were 
launched from the Pas-de-Calais area. 



PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



217 



Londoner would be exposed to a rocket 
bomb explosion within half a mile of 
him once a month. 81 Similar calculations 
applied to possible use of the rockets 
against an overlord port area resulted 
in a similar conclusion of probable in- 
effectiveness. 82 At least by March 1944, it 
was clear to SHAEF that German air- 
craft, with or without pilots, were not 
going to threaten seriously the success of 

OVERLORD. 

The Bombing of French Railroads 

With the threat of crossbow waning 
and the defeat of the Luftwaffe ap- 
parently assured, the Allied command 
could decide how air supremacy might 
be exploited to insure the success of 
overlord. Up to the end of 1943, plan- 
ners had never proposed use of the stra- 
tegic air forces during the preliminary 
phase on missions directly connected 
with the ground battle, although it was 
suggested that the heavy bombers might 
be sent in to attack German defenses 
about two weeks before the landings. 
Now the unexpectedly early success of 
the air forces in winning the battle for 
control of the air opened the possibility 
of committing them sooner in direct pre- 
paration for the assault. 

In December an Allied intelligence 
agency had drawn up a short-term rail- 
bombing plan designed to block seven- 
teen selected rail routes immediately be- 
fore D Day. This recommendation was 
rejected by Leigh-Mallory on the grounds 
that to be effective it would require a 

81 COS (44) 25 (O) , Probable Scale and Effect of 
Attack on London by Pilotless Aircraft, 10 Jan 44. 

82 COS (44) 107 (O) (Revised) , Progress Report 
by the ACAS (Ops) , 2 Feb 44. 



concentrated bombing effort close to 
D Day which, because of the risk of bad 
weather and the probable pressure of 
other commitments at that time, could 
not be guaranteed. As an alternative, 
AEAF developed a plan for a three- 
month bombing attack against thirty- 
three targets in France and Belgium and 
thirty-nine in Germany to disrupt rail 
traffic into the assault area. The new 
plan drafted in the first half of January 
drew on an analysis of the Italian rail- 
bombing experience made by Professor 
S. Zuckerman, scientific adviser to AEAF. 
Zuckerman took the view that the Italian 
rail transport system had been virtually 
paralyzed through the destruction or iso- 
lation of servicing and repair facilities 
and destruction of locomotives, rolling 
stock, and track. The paralysis was 
brought about, he considered, by a total 
dislocation of the system achieved largely 
by attacks on marshaling yards where the 
servicing facilities were concentrated. If 
similar destruction was to be accom- 
plished in northwest Europe, planners 
estimated that it would take at least three 
months of concentrated effort and would 
involve at least part of the strategic air 
forces. 83 

Preliminary discussion by the staff of 
AEAF and representatives of SHAEF 
brought forth no serious objection to the 
plan although Maj. Gen. P. G. White- 
foord, SHAEF G-2, expressed his belief 



^AAF Evaluation Board, Effectiveness of Air At- 
tack Against Rail Transportation in the Battle of 
France, Jun 45. This is a study prepared after the 
war by United States air experts in collaboration 
with the French railroad authorities (cited hereafter 
as AAF Evaluation Board Study) . Copy in AAF file 
138.4-37. Cf. Ltr, R. D. Hughes to Maj Gen F. L. 
Anderson, Report of Conference at Norfolk House, 
14 Jan 44. USSTAF Hies. See Bibliographical Note. 



218 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



that the first seven or eight enemy divi- 
sions brought into the battle area would 
come in by road and that therefore the 
rail plan, even if successful, would prob- 
ably not affect the battle in the early 
stages. Despite this objection, the meet- 
ing decided that the proposed attacks 
and the principle on which they were 
based were sound. The number of tar- 
gets, however, was considered inadequate. 
AEAF therefore revised the plan to in- 
clude ninety-three targets, of which four- 
teen in southern France would be at- 
tacked by the Fifteenth Air Force from 
Mediterranean bases. The German tar- 
gets were omitted. With these revisions 
AEAF and SHAEF representatives ex- 
pressed themselves as satisfied that the 
plan represented the "only practicable 
method of dealing with the enemy's rail 
communications and that it satisfied 
army requirements." Attacks were to 
begin at once, but would be regarded as 
a bonus until operations in support of 
overlord received precedence over the 
bomber offensive. 84 

The decision was not as firm as it 
seemed. The formula with which the 
meeting concluded was the formula of 
the COSSAC planning days when plans 
for air and naval action were drawn up 
by the independent air and naval com- 
mands, submitted through the COSSAC 
machinery for Army approval and, after 
such co-ordination, approved. Agree- 
ment that the air plan "satisfied army re- 
quirements" reflected the habit of mind 
of regarding decisions as made by co- 
equal service commanders. SHAEF was 

8 * Allied AF Bombing Committee, 6th Mtg, 24 Jan 
44. USSTAF files. SHAEF representatives were Gen- 
eral Whitefoord and General Napier (Movement 
and Transportation Officer) . 



still very new on the scene and the idea 
of a supreme commander solely respon- 
sible for all final decisions affecting the 
operation he commanded whether they 
were primarily air, army, or naval mat- 
ters had still not been absorbed. SHAEF, 
furthermore, had not yet been given con- 
trol over the strategic air forces. The 
result was that, while Leigh-Mallory pro- 
ceeded on the assumption that his plan 
was in effect and actually assigned rail 
targets to the Ninth Air Force in Feb- 
ruary 1944 as alternatives to its primary 
missions in support of the Combined 
Bomber Offensive, SHAEF was only be- 
ginning to study the plan. General 
Whitefoord, the day after the meeting, 
reported to the operations staff of Su- 
preme Headquarters that the AEAF plan 
"may well be worth considering." 85 

Quite different was the reaction at 
General Spaatz's headquarters, USSTAF 
(United States Strategic Air Forces). The 
suggestion that any large portion of the 
strategic air forces should be diverted 
from the bomber offensive and brought 
under control of AEAF for tactical pur- 
poses was regarded as threatening the 
completion of the vital primary mission 
of the strategic air to defeat the Luft- 
waffe. An intelligence officer, after exam- 
ining the AEAF plan, concluded that it 
would fruitlessly dissipate the striking 
power of the strategic air forces. He 
pointed out, however, that because of 
the peculiar command set-up which put 
Leigh-Mallory directly under Eisenhower 
the plan would not compete directly for 
favor with the Combined Bomber Offen- 
sive. He suggested that if the strategic 
air forces did not like the plan they 

85 Memo for Bull, West, and McLean, 25 Jan 44. 
SHAEF SGS file 373.24 I. 



PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



219 



would have to devise an alternative for 
submission to General Eisenhower. He 
concluded with a recommendation that 
"a quick and decisive effort be made to 
prevent the Strategic Air Forces being 
engulfed in the Zuckerman program." 86 

General Doolittle, new commander of 
the Eighth Air Force, when asked for an 
opinion, replied that in no case should 
the attack on rail targets by strategic 
bombers be begun until after the Ger- 
man Air Force had been decisively 
beaten. His operations officer felt that 
this objective could be accomplished in 
short order "if we are not prematurely 
distracted." He believed further that the 
system of rail targets could be hit within 
the period D minus 20 to D Day and that 
this would be the most effective time to 
undertake the attack. 87 

General Spaatz directed that an alter- 
native plan be prepared "for operations 
to follow after accomplishment of the 
primary objective of the Combined 
Bomber Offensive . . . and for operations 
of the strategic air forces in the direct 
support of overlord." 88 USSTAF plan- 
ners saw no merits at all in the AEAF 
plan. "Axis European transportation," 
they said, "cannot be recommended as a 
target system for strategic attack"; it was 
too extensive and would require too long 
to destroy. They estimated that "no 
military effect would be felt for more 
than . . . nine months" after the program 
was completed. As an alternative they 

86 Ltr, Lt Col Lowell P. Weicker (Dep Dir Int 
USSTAF) to Dir Int, Future Plan for Employing 
Air Power in the Support of overlord, 10 Feb 44. 
USSTAF files. 

87 Ltr, Gen Anderson (A-3, Eighth AF) to CG 
USSTAF, Force Required Against Railway Targets, 
26 Feb 44. AAF Eighth AF files. 

88 Dir, 12 Feb 44. 



suggested priority attacks on the German 

011 industry, with emphasis on gasoline, 
and secondary attacks on fighter aircraft, 
ball bearing, rubber, and bomber pro- 
duction. Only as a last resort should 
transportation centers in Germany be at- 
tacked when weather conditions forbade 
precise attacks on the primary targets. 89 
This USSTAF proposal, which became 
known as the "Oil Plan," was submitted 
to General Eisenhower and Air Marshal 
Portal on 5 March with request for the 
Supreme Commander's concurrence. 

It will be recalled that, while the tac- 
tical air forces had been subordinated to 
the Supreme Commander at the end of 
1943, the Combined Chiefs of Staff had 
been unable to agree on when and how 
the strategic air forces should come under 
Eisenhower's control. Although it was 
generally conceded that the Supreme 
Commander should command all forces 
(including the strategic air) which he 
needed in the actual battle, the British 
were opposed to turning over the heavy 
bombers to him before that battle. On 

12 February, General Eisenhower re- 
ceived his directive from the Combined 
Chiefs of Staff, conspicuously lacking any 
clause on the control of strategic air. At 
about the same time the AEAF rail plan 
was published and General Spaatz's op- 
position to it developed. All these cir- 
cumstances served to give urgency to the 
settling of the command problem. Gen- 
eral Eisenhower in the latter part of 
February 1944 brought the problem to 
the Prime Minister. Churchill was at 
first disposed to adhere to his original 
view that the Bomber Command should 
remain independent of the Supreme 

89 Plan for the Completion of the Combined 
Bomber Offensive, 5 Mar 44, cited n. 73. 



220 



CROSS CHANNEL ATTACK 



Commander while co-operating with him 
in support of overlord. This was sub- 
stantially the view advanced by the 
British Chiefs of Staff during the earlier 
debate with the U.S. Joint Chiefs and 
was as unacceptable to Eisenhower now 
as it had been then to Ceneral Marshall. 
Whatever its motive, it seemed to the 
Supreme Commander like holding back 
on what had been agreed on as the Allied 
supreme effort in Europe. If the British 
insisted on anything less than an all-out 
commitment to overlord, Eisenhower 
told the Prime Minister, he would 
"simply have to go home." 90 Churchill 
then did not prolong his opposition. He 
said he would agree to whatever plan Air 
Marshal Portal and Eisenhower together 
could work out. 

The solution drafted by Portal and 
Eisenhower was a proposal to give the 
Supreme Commander "responsibility for 
supervision of air operations out of 
England of all the forces engaged in the 
program" in support of overlord, the 
responsibility to pass when Portal, "as 
executive of the Combined Chiefs of 
Staff for the execution of pointblank 
[the Combined Bomber Offensive]," and 
the Supreme Commander jointly ap- 
proved the plan for air support. The 
Supreme Commander recognized that his 
control of air forces assigned to overlord 
and the Combined Bomber Offensive 
would be subject to intervention by the 
Combined Chiefs of Staff. He also an- 
nounced his intention of designating Air 
Marshal Tedder, Deputy Supreme Com- 
mander, to supervise "all operations un- 
der the control of overlord." 81 It was 

90 Entry 3 Mar 44, Diary of CinC; cf. ibid., Memo 
under date 22 Mar 44. 

91 Tedder had served during World War I with 



understood that the requirements of sup- 
porting overlord would not absorb the 
total effort of the strategic air forces and 
that the use of the balance would be 
arranged by Portal and Eisenhower in 
accordance with the existing Combined 
Chiefs of Staff directive for the Combined 
Bomber Offensive. Supervision of this 
part of the air operation would be exer- 
cised jointly by Portal and Eisenhower. 92 

This agreement, drawn up on 9 March, 
was approved on the 17th by the British 
Chiefs of Staff and forwarded to Wash- 
ington. The Joint Chiefs accepted all 
the terms except the word "supervision." 
They preferred "command" and said so. 
But, after a "long and complicated" 93 
demurral from the British, they compro- 
mised on "direction." 94 

Eisenhower would assume control 
when a plan of air support had been 
agreed upon. But agreement promised 
to be difficult. Opposition to the AEAF 
transportation bombing plan gathered 
during March. Various intelligence ex- 
perts examined the problem and came 
up with unanimous disapproval chiefly 
on the grounds that German military 



both the Army and the Royal Flying Corps. In 1938 
he began a tour as Director-General of Research and 
Development, Air Ministry. He was Deputy Com- 
mander-in-Chief of the RAF in the Middle East dur- 
ing the Italian phase of African operations and in 
June 1941 was made Commander-in-Chief, directing 
air attacks against Rommel's troops and enemy ship- 
ping in the Mediterranean. After a short period with 
the Air Council as Vice-Chief of Air Staff, he re- 
turned to the Mediterranean early in 1943 as Com- 
mander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Air Command. 

92 Ltr, Portal to Eisenhower, 9 Mar 44. SHAEF 
SGS file 373/1; cf. CCS 520, Control of Strategic 
Bombing for "Overlord," 17 Mar 44. 

93 Marshall's words at JCS 154th Mtg, 21 Mar 44. 

94 CCS 520 series. Final agreement is CCS 520/2, 
26 Mar 44. 



PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



221 



traffic required such a small portion of 
the Frencli rail system that 80 or 90 per- 
cent of that system would have to be de- 
stroyed before troop and supply move- 
ments into the assault area could be 
affected. They further questioned 
whether prolonged attack could even suf- 
ficiently weaken the system to justify the 
expenditure of bombs. Air Marshal 
Portal was persuaded by their findings 
that the plan was unsuitable. General 
Brooke agreed and, questioning Zucker- 
man's interpretation of the Italian ex- 
perience, suggested that rail bombing in 
Italy under much more favorable condi- 
tions than would prevail in France had 
actually been of doubtful value. 95 

Despite all this opposition, the AEAF 
plan won a powerful advocate in Air 
Marshal Tedder. His advocacy led to 
fresh examinations. General Spaatz ob- 
served to General Arnold that since these 
examinations had proved adverse to the 
plan it was hoped by all concerned that 
"the AEAF plan will be repudiated by 
Tedder of his own accord, thus avoiding 
hard feelings." 96 But Tedder did not 
repudiate the plan, mainly because he 
did not feel that the alternative oil plan 
would have effect on overlord in time. 
At a meeting at the Air Ministry on 25 
March presided over by General Eisen- 
hower and attended by all the top airmen 
concerned in the air support question, 
Tedder outlined his views. The German 
Air Force, he felt, should remain the 
priority target, but the residual effort of 
all Allied air forces should be devoted to 
delaying and disorganizing enemy ground 
movements. It was important, he be- 
lieved, to concentrate all the air forces 

96 COS (44) 93rd Mtg, 21 Mar 44. 

96 Cbl, Spaatz to Arnold, 16 Mar 44. USSTAF files. 



on a single target system. In favor of 
the transportation plan he pointed out 
the already strained condition of the 
French railroads. In view of that, he felt 
that rail bombing could delay enemy pre- 
parations and, more important, it could 
so canalize rail traffic that it could be 
more easily disrupted completely after 
D Day. 97 

As to the first priority of defeating the 
Luftwaffe there was no argument. At- 
tacks on the German Air Force were in- 
terpreted further to include attacks on 
ball bearing factories. The debate then 
centered on what rail bombing might 
accomplish. Tedder did not claim that 
the proposed rail attacks would prevent 
all German rail traffic, but he did feel 
that, even in the light of intelligence 
estimates, the bombing would have use- 
ful military effect. Portal agreed that 
the efficiency of the enemy rail system 
could be impaired by bombing but 
thought that the damage could be ab- 
sorbed by curtailment of civilian traffic 
and that the German Army would not be 
affected. War Office and Economic Min- 
istry representatives in general agreed. 
Possibly 30 percent of the present effi- 
ciency of the enemy railroads could be 
pared off, they thought, but despite this 
possibility German military traffic would 
still get through. A British economic 
adviser added his belief that, although 
some food would evidently have to be 
carried for the civilian population, the 
Germans would be happy to get along 
without French industry. 



97 Memo, 24 Mar 44, SHAEF SGS file 373/1. Fol- 
lowing account of the meeting is from minutes in 
AAF files. Mtg, To Discuss the Bombing Policy in 
the Period Before overlord, 25 May 44, CAS/misc/61 
(Final) . 



222 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



General Eisenhower then cut sharply 
into the core of the question. As he saw 
it, the first five or six weeks of overlord 
would be the most critical period, during 
which it was essential to take every pos- 
sible step to insure that Allied troops got 
ashore and stayed ashore. "The greatest 
contribution that he could imagine the 
air forces making to this aim was that 
they should hinder enemy movement." 
He discounted the arguments that the 
plan would have less than the effect 
claimed for it by AEAF. In default of an 
alternative it was necessary only that the 
rail bombing have some effect, however 
small, to justify adopting it. 

That the plan would have "some" 
effect was generally admitted and the dis- 
cussion turned to whether there was any 
acceptable alternative. General Spaatz 
summarized his reasons for preferring 
the oil plan already outlined by his staff. 
Strategic attacks on the enemy rail sys- 
tem, he believed, would not affect the 
course of the initial battle, nor would the 
attacks be likely to force the German Air 
Force to fight. The oil plan, on the other 
hand, would evoke enemy reaction and 
so lead to attrition of the German 
fighter air force. It would, furthermore, 
directly weaken enemy resistance and so 
hasten the success of overlord. Spaatz's 
view, in short, was that nothing the stra- 
tegic air forces could do in the prelim- 
inary phase would materially affect the 
battle of the beaches, and that therefore 
they should devote their efforts to a plan 
which would achieve the maximum long- 
range reduction of German armed 
strength. 

General Eisenhower did not agree. 
The oil plan, he felt, should be consid- 
ered as soon as the critical phase of 



overlord was passed, but it did not con- 
stitute an alternative to the rail plan. 
The decision of the meeting was that no 
alternative existed and the rail plan was 
approved subject only to General Spaatz's 
examination of whether the Eighth Air 
Force could carry out its portion of it. 
The plan was considered not to affect 
Bomber Command, whose night area 
bombing could be expected to have only 
a fortuitous effect on the German trans- 
portation system. 

At the close of the meeting Portal 
warned of British Government opposi- 
tion and asked that the War Cabinet be 
given an opportunity to consider the im- 
plications of killing French civilians in 
the proposed attacks. 

Ever since the plan had been advanced, 
the War Cabinet had viewed as political 
dynamite the idea of bombing French 
and Belgian territory, particularly in at- 
tacks on marshaling yards which were 
generally located close to centers of popu- 
lation. Earlier in March the British 
Chiefs of Staff had refused Leigh-Mallory 
blanket clearance of his rail targets with- 
out Cabinet approval. Even after Gen- 
eral Eisenhower had declared the plan 
essential to the military success of over- 
lord, Cabinet approval was still with- 
held. Estimates of civilian casualties 
likely to be caused ran as high as 160,000, 
of which it was thought a quarter might 
be killed. 98 The Joint Intelligence Com- 
mittee was invited to prepare an appre- 
ciation of French reaction." Pending its 
report, certain targets in relatively un- 
populated areas were to be cleared in- 

98 COS (44) 273 (O) , Attacks on Rail Targets in 
Enemy Occupied Territory, 19 Mar 44. 

99 Issued as JIC (44) 147 (O) (Final) , Bombing 
Targets in France and the Low Countries in Rela- 
tion to Overlord, 15 May 44. 



PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



223 



dividually. For about two weeks the 
Cabinet earnestly debated the ques- 
tion. 100 Their opposition was at last over- 
come largely by the firm stand which the 
British Chiefs of Staff took that the pro- 
gram was a military necessity. 101 On 18 
April the Cabinet had cleared all rail 
targets except two in the Paris area. 102 
The Prime Minister however, continued 
to urge General Eisenhower to consider 
alternative targets the bombing of which 
would not kill more than a hundred 
Frenchmen per target. Only if study 
proved all other schemes militarily in- 
ferior could he concur that military con- 
siderations must override the political. 103 
At the end of April General Eisenhower 
directed the suspension of attacks on 
twenty-seven targets in heavily populated 
districts, including seventeen of the 
twenty-four targets originally assigned to 
Bomber Command. 104 With modifica- 
tions such as this and a system of warning 
the civilian population, casualties were 
kept down below the most optimistic es- 
timates. On 16 May the Prime Minister 
had become reconciled to the program 
and, vetoing a proposal to call in French 
railway experts to assess the psychological 
effects of the bombing, he said, "I suggest 

100 COS (44) 190th Mtg (O) , 4 Apr 44. For the 
discussion on bombing of French railroads see, in 
addition, COS (44) 258 (O) , 10 Mar 44; COS (44) 
273 (O) , 19 Mar; and COS (44) 93rd and 95th Mtgs, 
21 and 23 Mar respectively. Entries in Diary of CinC, 
under dates of 5, 13, and 20 Apr 44, summarize the 
salient points accurately. 

101 Cbl, Smith to Marshall, 17 May 44; Ismay, Min- 
ute to Prime Minister, 29 Mar 44. SHAEF SGS file 
373.24 I. 

102 Transportation Targets Committee (SHAEF) 
2d Mtg, 18 Apr 44. SHAEF SGS file 334, bundle N. 

103 Ltr to Eisenhower, 29 Apr 44. SHAEF SGS file 
373.24 I. 

104 Dir to USSTAF. Bomber Command, and AEAF, 
29 Apr 44. SHAEF SGS file 373.24 I. 



that the matter should be dropped." 106 
As a practical matter it, of course, had 
been dropped and the transportation 
bombing program at that point was 
nearing completion. 

On 14 April General Eisenhower took 
over direction of the strategic air forces 
in support of overlord and three days 
later issued his directive for the trans- 
portation bombing. The over-all mission 
of destruction of the German military 
and economic system remained un- 
changed. The particular mission of the 
strategic air forces was first to deplete the 
German Air Force and destroy the facil- 
ities serving it, and second, "to destroy 
and disrupt the enemy's rail communica- 
tions, particularly those affecting the 
enemy's movements towards the 'over- 
lord' lodgment area." 106 Targets in 
eastern France and part of Belgium were 
allocated to the Eighth Air Force; 
Bomber Command was to hit western 
France and the area around Paris while 
the AEAF concentrated its efforts on 
northern France and Belgium. Although 
German targets were not included in the 
plan as approved in April, the Eighth 
Air Force before D Day dropped about 
5,000 tons on railroad centers in the 
Reich and along the Franco-German 
border. 107 Eisenhower also personally 
gave Spaatz permission to try out a series 
of heavy attacks on the German oil in- 
dustry; these were initiated in March and 
continued along with the rail bombing. 
Attacks against oil targets began to as- 
sume the proportions of an all-out offen- 



105 Minute, annexed to COS (44) 158th Mtg (O) , 
16 May 44. 

it* Dir to USSTAF and Bomber Command, 17 Apr 
44. SHAEF SGS file 373/1. 

107 AAF Evaluation Board Study. 



224 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



sive about the middle of May, and on 8 
June General Spaatz announced the de- 
struction of German oil resources as the 
primary strategic aim of the U.S. Stra- 
tegic Air Forces. 108 

Bombing of enemy railroads in France 
and Belgium was carried out by all three 
air forces, and before D Day nearly all 
assigned targets had been hit. AEAF re- 
ported good results. But outside the 
AEAF the program was carried on with 
general skepticism. A representative of 
21 Army Group referred to it as "pin- 
pricking on rail communications." 109 
The attacks were continued because they 
were believed to constitute the best that 
could be devised and because it was 
hoped they would have some effect. The 
hope, however, according to intelligence 
reports, was sheer delusion. A week be- 
fore D Day the SHAEF G-2 reported that 
the whole rail bombing operation had 
accomplished nothing of importance. It 
had failed "so [to] reduce the railway 
operating facilities as to impair the 
enemy's ability to move up reinforce- 
ments and maintain his forces in the 
West." Although the attacks had prob- 
ably imposed some slight delays and had 
laid some groundwork for effective tac- 
tical thrusts after the assault, it was still 
estimated that the enemy had three times 
the rail capacity needed for military 
traffic, four times the required number 
of cars, eight times the required loco- 
motives, and ten times the required serv- 
icing facilities. 110 

i° 8 Msg, Spaatz to Doolittle, U-63552, 8 Jun 44, in 
Eighth Air Force, Dir Vol 3. AAF files. 

109 AEAF Mtg to discuss bombing targets, 6 May 
44. AAF file 505.25-5. 

110 SHAEF G-2, Evaluation of Rail Centre Attacks, 
20 May 44. AAF file 505.26-38. These conclusions 
were repeated in the report of 31 May. 



Seldom have intelligence estimates 
been so wrong. They were wrong pri- 
marily because the method of statistical 
evaluation took no account of either 
cumulative or critical damage. A ma- 
chine only 10 percent worn out may still 
be incapable of functioning. Similarly, 
destruction of a single cotter pin, an in- 
finitesimal portion of a machine by 
weight, nevertheless may precipitate the 
shattering of the whole mechanism. By 
D Day the Allied air forces, ably assisted 
by saboteurs of the French Resistance, 
had knocked cotter pins out of the rail- 
roads all over France, and the transporta- 
tion system was on the point of total col- 
lapse. 

The Germans had long anticipated that 
the Allies would preface their invasion 
of the Continent with a widespread at- 
tack on the Continental rail system. 
Rundstedt realized further that without 
an air force of his own he would be vir- 
tually helpless before such an attack. In- 
terference with troop movement and sup- 
ply was certain to be serious. Lacking 
sufficient motor transport even for its 
combat troops, Rundstedt's army was de- 
pendent almost entirely on the railroads 
for supply. 

Certain measures might have been 
taken, both to lessen that dependence 
(by decentralization of the supply system, 
for instance) and to protect the railroads. 
Actually, little was done. The Com- 
mander in Chief West had to face the 
tvin facts that France had been used for 
three years as a grazing ground for the 
rest of the German military establish- 
ment and that by the time Hitler recog- 
nized the imperative need for strong de- 
fensive measures in the west there were 



PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



225 



no longer any resources with which to 
carry them out. 

The French railroads had already been 
weakened before the war by a series of 
financial crises which resulted in econo- 
mizing on repair facilities and renewal 
and maintenance expenditures. The cam- 
paign of 1940 destroyed 500 way struc- 
tures and 1,200 railroad buildings. But 
this loss was nothing compared to that 
caused by the depredations of the Ger- 
mans during the occupation. Out of the 
18,000 locomotives in France, 4,000 were 
removed to Germany, including a large 
percentage of the heavier .types. More 
than a third of the rolling stock, which 
before the war amounted to 31,000 pas- 
senger cars and 480,000 freight cars, was 
also "loaned" to Germany. Personnel of 
the SNCF was reduced 20 percent and 
the quality diluted by calling back re- 
tired employees and increasing the pro- 
portion of unskilled workers. 111 

Before Allied bombs began to fall, the 
SNCF was severely strained and lacked 
the usual reserve of excess capacity. Under 
constant pressure to increase loading, 
hampered by shortages perhaps most 
crucial in personnel and facilities for re- 
pair, burdened with a cumbersome 
mixed German-French management, and 
plagued with active sabotage and passive 
resistance on the part of a large number 
of workers and the French management, 
the French railroads were peculiarly sen- 
sitive to attack. 

In anticipation of transportation diffi- 
culties to come, OB WEST on 3 January 
ordered the establishment of a strict pri- 
ority system restricting rail shipments to 
the most important military supplies. 



111 AAF Evaluation Board Study. 



Seventh Army had worked out and put 
into effect this system for Normandy and 
Brittany by the end of February. 112 Up to 
that time no difficulties more serious 
than local delays were experienced 
through spasmodic Allied air attacks and 
sabotage. But in March the co-ordinated 
attacks began and the strained transpor- 
tation system showed immediate signs of 
breakdown. Despite the regulation of 
nonessential traffic, 1,600 trains by the 
end of April were backlogged in France, 
including 600 carrying army supplies. In 
addition, valuable army supplies had 
been destroyed in attacks on marshaling 
yards; other supplies ready for shipment 
were held up in warehouses awaiting 
freight cars. 113 Seventh Army, during the 
month, got a taste of things to come. In 
its sector, two major attacks on le Mans re- 
sulted in considerable losses of locomo- 
tives and cars and put the yards out of op- 
eration for several weeks. Since the begin- 
ning of 1944 railroads in the army area 
had suffered twenty-five air attacks and 
fifty-six reported cases of sabotage. The 
cumulative effect was to increase the back- 
log of trains feeding Normandy and Brit- 
tany from 30 at the beginning of the 
month to 228 at the end. 114 

The five to six hundred locomotives de- 
stroyed in the OB WEST sector during 
March was nearly double the figure for 
February. But the acceleration of the 
tempo of attacks had only begun. OKW 
noted that in March the majority of Allied 

112 Seventh Army, KTB; Taetigkeitsbericht des 
Bevollmaechtigten Transport Offiziers beim A. O.K. 7 
(referred to hereafter as Seventh Army, Trans. O.), 
KTB 1.I.-30.VI.44. 

113 OB WEST, Oberquartiermeister West (referred 
to hereafter as OB WEST, O.Qu.) , KTB 1.1.-11. 
V III. 44. 

114 Seventh Army, Trans. O., KTB 1 .1 .-30.Vl.44 . 




BOMBARDMENT OF MARSHALING YARDS at Busigny in northern France. 



PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS 



227 



air attacks in France were still hitting 
Luftwaffe installations. In April the con- 
centration shifted dramatically to rail- 
roads: there were 249 reported attacks as 
against 93 in March. Sabotage cases at the 
same time increased from 460 to 500. 115 
The first serious military effect was the 
curtailment of supplies for the construc- 
tion of the Atlantic Wall. In April the 
naval commander in Normandy was al- 
ready complaining about the lack of steel 
and concrete due to the destruction of 
rail centers. Construction delays, he 
added, would be inevitable. 116 

Countermeasures were discussed in a 
conference on 15 April between Field 
Marshal Keitel, Chief of OKW, and the 
Reich Minister for Rail and Road Com- 
munications (Reichsverkehrsminister) 
but no really effective measures were 
possible. Fighter protection could not 
be increased, since Allied bombing of 
vital targets in Germany continued un- 
abated while Luftwaffe fighter strength 



116 OKW/WFSt, KTB Ausarbeitung, Der Westen 
1.IV.-16.XH.44, cited hereafter as Der Westen. This 
draft War Diary (KTB) , like that cited in n. 27, 
was written by Major Percy Schramm, OKW his- 
torian, from records and daily notes made at OKW 
headquarters. Until the end of 1943 the Diary was 
kept chronologically and supplemented by informa- 
tion from participants in the operations. After 1943 
the diary was written up at intervals of three months 
or more in the form of separate narratives on the 
various fronts and the special problems faced by 
OKW. Besides official' documents, Schramm made 
use of a Merkbuch in which he recorded informal 
notes on the situation meetings he attended and 
special interviews he held with the Deputy Chief of 
WFSt, General Warlimont. In view of the destruc- 
tion of OKW records ordered in 1945 by General 
Scherff, the copies of Schramm's Ausarbeitungen for 
1944 represent unique source material for OKW 
history. 

116 Marine Gruppenkommando West, Kriegstage- 
buch (referred to hereafter as Navy Group West, 
KTB) , 16.1V -30.1V At. Navy Dept files, Tambach Col- 
lection. 



deteriorated. Military leaves were sus- 
pended throughout the west on 25 April 
to relieve the pressure on the railroads. 117 
Additional restriction of nonmilitary traf- 
fic, which achieved a sharp curtailment of 
rail operations in France, brought a tem- 
porary improvement. Seventh Army 
noted that its backlog of trains had been 
reduced from 228 at the end of March to 
120 at the end of April. 118 Reduction in 
total traffic further cut the losses of equip- 
ment. But the statistical improvement in- 
dicated no solution to the problem. 

Allied attacks were stepped up in May. 
Seventh Army reported "important de- 
struction" during the first week and pre- 
dicted that in case of a landing the enemy 
would be able to disrupt rail traffic com- 
pletely, as he had done in Italy. The same 
conclusion had already led OB WEST to 
order the formation of truck companies 
under centralized control that would pool 
all available motor transport for supply in 
accordance with the critical tactical needs. 
The order was not easy to implement in 
view of critical shortages of motor trans- 
port. On 7 May Seventh Army had worked 
out the details of a scheme to motorize 
portions of certain infantry divisions in 
reserve as well as Kampfgruppen of the 
coastal defense divisions so that they 
could be employed in mobile fighting. 
The remainder of all units were to give 
up all transportation for the formation of 
motor companies under corps control- 
each company with a capacity of 120 tons. 
Units in the forward positions would 
bring their weaponing up to 75 percent 
of authorized allotments and secure three 
days' supply of all material needed to 
make them self-sufficient in combat. It 

117 Der Westen. 

118 Seventh Army, Trans.O., KTB 1. I. -30. VI. .44 . 



228 



CF OSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



was reckoned that it would take three 
days for resupply through the centralized 
transport system. 119 

One German answer to Allied bomb- 
ings, in short, was an attempt to reduce 
dependence on the railroads. The other 
was an attempt to keep the railroads in 
repair. Repair of bomb damage on rail 
lines and marshaling yards was generally 
not a difficult or time-consuming process. 
Even after very heavy raids on marshal- 
ing yards, traffic could almost always be 
resumed in a day or two. Evidently, how- 
ever, widespread and constant air attacks 
could involve a very heavy total expendi- 
ture of man-hours for repair. The cumu- 
lative strain spread across theater bound- 
aries. By the middle of January, for ex- 
ample, all the rail lines in Italy were 
broken and the supply situation became 
so serious that two more railway engineer 
battalions were requisitioned, one from 
Russia and one from the west. At the end 
of March Rundstedt was called on to send 
another battalion to Italy. Although the 
French railroad system was then already 
beginning to suffer from Allied attacks 
the Italian situation was thought to be 
still worse. 120 Rundstedt at the end of 
March was thus left with about three rail- 
way engineer battalions to supervise re- 
pair work on French railroads for mili- 
tary use. Laborers were drawn at first 
from the SNCF and from the civilian 
population as a whole. But when the co- 
ordinated bombings began to take effect 
in the spring extraordinary measures be- 
came necessary. Immediately 18,000 men 

119 Order, Seventh Army to subordinate corps and 
divisions, Beweglichmachung und Bildung zusaetz- 
lichen Transportraumes , 7 May 44. Seventh Army, 
KTB Anlagen 1. 1. -30. VI. 44. 

120 OKW/WFSt, KTB Ausarbeitung, Die Entwich- 
lung im Westen vom 1.1.-31.111.44. 



of Organization Todt were taken off con- 
struction work on the Atlantic Wall to 
try to keep the railroads running. On 8 
May OKW approved the withdrawal of an 
additional 10,000 men. 121 Two weeks later 
Reich Minister Albert Speer noted after 
a conference with Hitler that the latter 
approved his view "that in the west, even 
though building operations on the At- 
lantic Wall should be possible, the main 
duties of the O.T. [Organization Todt] 
should lie in the elimination of difficulties 
in transport, including those in the in- 
terior of France." 122 

But repairs could not keep pace. To the 
systematic attacks on marshaling yards, 
the Allied tactical air forces in May added 
new damaging attacks on bridges over the 
Seine, Oise, and Meuse Rivers. These at- 
tacks, begun suddenly on 7 May, had not 
been included in the original transporta- 
tion bombing plan because it was believed 
on the basis of experience in Italy that the 
weight of bombs required to knock out a 
bridge was out of all proportion to the 
military value of success. The first at- 
tacks were undertaken experimentally at 
the urging of 21 Army Group, which had 
little faith in the efficacy of general attacks 
on rail centers. 123 Success was spectacular. 
Bridges were toppled along the whole 
length of the Seine from Rouen to 
Mantes-Gassicourt before D Day at a cost 
of only 220 tons of bombs to a bridge. On 
26 May, all routes over the Seine north of 
Paris were closed to rail traffic and they 
remained closed for the next thirty days 
despite German efforts to repair one or 



121 Der Westen. 

122 Notes by Reich Minister Albert Speer on Con- 
ference with Hitler on 22, 23 May 44, MS (trans) . 
AAF files. 

"3 AEAF Mtg, 6 May 44. AAF file 505.25-5. 



230 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



two of the less completely damaged struc- 
tures. German repair operations were 
kept under observation and whenever a 
bridge seemed on the point of becoming 
usable again it was reattacked. 124 The suc- 
cess of the first bridge bombings led to 
the development of a plan to close off the 
lodgment area. The first line of inter- 
diction was set at the line of the Seine and 
Loire Rivers and a gap section between 
the rivers. The second line included 
bridges over a number of rivers on a gen- 
eral line from Etaples to Fismes to Cla- 
mecy and thence along the upper Loire to 
Orleans. Bridges on the Loire were not to 
be hit until afte r D Day to avoid defining 
the assault area. |(Maft IVj^ 

On 21 May, Known to the air forces 
as "Chattanooga Day," fighter-bombers 
opened attack on line targets, bombing 
open track and small stations and strafing 
trains and rail facilities. Seventh Army on 
that day recorded 50 locomotives de- 
stroyed in its sector. 125 French records 



124 For example, two bridges south of Oisel were 
attacked and damaged on 10 May. The Germans de- 
cided to repair one for emergency use. On 6 June the 
railway engineers announced that it was operating. 
On that day it was bombed but suffered only light 
damage. The next day Allied planes returned to 
finish the job. The attack caused heavy damage, but 
the German engineers nevertheless set to work to 
repair the bridge and estimated that they could 
have it in shape again by 2 July. Allied air forces 
kept watch and on 29 June when the repairs were 
almost finished flew again to the attack. That attack 
at last finished the agony as three superstructures 
fell into the river and the Germans abandoned all 
thoughts of repair. See Rpts of the 6th Ry Eng Regt, 
May-Jun 1944, in OKH Chef des Transportwesens, 
General der Eisenbahntruppen, Lagemeldungen 
(Ausschnitte) Frankreich, Band la, 1945-44. 

125 Seventh Army, Trans.O., KTB 1.1. -30. VI. 44. 



show 1 1 3 locomotives damaged during 
the day throughout France. 126 General- 
oberst Friedrich Dollmann, commander 
of Seventh Army, told Rommel the new 
attacks would bring a grave deterioration 
of the already strained transportation sys- 
tem and asked increasing use of motor 
transport. 127 Before D Day 2,700 sorties 
were flown against line targets. 

Transportation bombing before D Day 
had a far more profound effect on the 
ability of the German Army in the west 
to resist invasion than the Allies realized. 
Statistics were misleading. The number 
of locomotives destroyed by air attack 
was actually less than the number await- 
ing repair from normal deterioration; the 
physical destruction done to rail and serv- 
icing facilities was small; rail cuts were 
repaired quickly on the important mili- 
tary lines. But despite all these facts, 
which mathematically added up to neg- 
ligible destruction, rail traffic in France 
actually declined 60 percent between 1 
March and 6 June. More significantly, in 
the area most heavily bombed, the Region 
Nord, three-quarters of the normal traffic 
was knocked off the rails. In the Region 
Ouest (generally in the invasion zone), 
which was bombed relatively lightly in 
order to preserve security, traffic declined 
by only 30 percent, but immediately after 
the assault it dropped even lower than in 
the Region Nord. These results were to 
prove critical in the battle for Nor- 
mandy. 128 

126 AAF Evaluation Board Study. 

127 Seventh Army, KTB 1.I.-30.VI.44, 23 May 44. 

128 AAF Evaluation Board Study. Normal traffic 
calculated as that of 1943. 



CHAPTER VII 



German Defense Measures, 1944 



OKW Policy in 1944 

German strategy for 1944 rested on the 
realization that decisive offensives could 
no longer be mounted in the east and that 
the growing strength of the Western 
Allies made almost certain a major inva- 
sion attempt before the end of the year. 
The prospective invasion of western Eu- 
rope presented both the gravest danger 
to the Reich and the most hopeful oppor- 
tunity for turning defeat into victory. If 
the Allies were not stopped at the land- 
ings, their attack would carry at once into 
the heart of Germany; if they were 
stopped and their beachheads annihi- 
lated, it was unlikely that a new attempt 
could be made for a long time to come, 
and as many as fifty German divisions 
might thereby be freed for the struggle 
against the Soviet Union. 1 

Recognizing the superiority of the Al- 
lied military potential, the Germans knew 
that their one chance for defeating the 
invasion was to defeat it quickly. It was 
therefore vital that the maximum Ger- 
man force be on the spot to fight the de- 
cisive battle as soon as the Allies attacked. 
To stake everything on c\ battle whose 
place and timing would be entirely of the 
enemy's choosing was to put an all but im- 

1 OKW/WFSt, KTB Ausarbeitung, Die OKW 
Kriegsschauplaetze im Rahmen der Gesamtkriegs- 
fuehrung 1. 1. -31. III. 44. Cited hereafter as Die OKW 
Kriegsschauplaetze. See above, Ch. VI, n. 115. C£. 
Fuehrer Directive No. 51, 3 Nov 43. Translation in 
A pp. D, below. 



possible burden on the defense, demand- 
ing of it a mobility it did not have and a 
sure knowledge of enemy intentions it 
had no means of acquiring. It was one 
thing to decide— as Hitler did with the 
issuance of his Directive No. 51— to pre- 
pare the west for the critical battle to 
come; it was another to find the means to 
carry out those preparations. 

Regardless of how critical the defense 
of the west was declared, there could be 
no question of withdrawing forces from 
the hard-pressed eastern armies to rein- 
force it. The best that could be hoped for 
was to hold on to forces already in the 
various occupied territories outside of 
Russia and devote to the west the bulk 
of the new resources in men and equip- 
ment that became available in the months 
remaining before the Allies attacked. 
After Hitler's November order, OKW 
drew up a plan providing in detail for the 
shift of troops to meet a major Allied in- 
vasion of any one of the western theaters 
of operations. If the invasion hit France— 
the most likely possibility— OKW planned 
to move three infantry divisions from 
Norway and Denmark, one infantry divi- 
sion, a Werfer regiment and a corps head- 
quarters from Italy, and four mobile in- 
fantry or Jaeger divisions and some minor 
units from the Balkans. 2 Although these 



2 Die OKW Kriegsschauplaetze. Werfer regiments 
were equipped with either heavy mortars or rocket 
projectors. Jaeger divisions were light infantry divi- 
sions. 



232 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



troop shifts would not amount to evacua- 
tion of any occupied area, they would 
mean a considerable concentration of 
force. 

Such concentration was based on the 
assumption that the Allies would make 
one main attack. In January OKW began 
to wonder whether the assumption was 
justified. All signs still pointed to an at- 
tack across the Channel, probably at its 
narrowest point, but there were also in- 
dications that such an attack might be 
preceded or accompanied by other major 
thrusts. OKW noticed the "astonishing" 
emphasis in Allied quarters on prepara- 
tions for a "second front" and reasoned 
that these might be designed to conceal 
another "main blow" that would not 
strike across the Channel. The "other 
place" selected might be Portugal or the 
Balkans, but the choice of the latter had 
particular plausibility. 3 It seemed un- 
likely that the large Allied forces in the 
Mediterranean would be committed in 
the slow and costly attempt to push all 
the way up the Italian peninsula. 4 The 
Balkan area offered greater strategic 
prizes and was conveniently at hand. 

Whatever area was threatened OKW 
viewed the twin facts of accumulated Al- 
lied power in the Mediterranean and 
comparative stalemate in Italy as a kind of 
strategic unbalance which might be 
solved by another sudden major assault. 
German jitteriness on this score was not 
calmed by a report at about this time 
from agents in England that the ratio of 
Allied seagoing landing ships to landing 



3 Summary, (ltd 4 Jan 44, of impressions of senior 
naval member of the Armed Forces Operations Staff 
in Seekriegsleitung/ l.Abt., KTB 1.-31.1.44, 15 Jan 
44; Die OKW Kriegsschauplaetze. 

*OKW/WFSt, KTB 1.IX.-31.XII.43, 28 Dec 43. 



craft for Channel use was ten times as 
great as the Doenitz staff had previously 
estimated. 5 This discovery seemed to con- 
firm the guess that the Allies were plan- 
ning an expedition outside the Channel. 

All these fears seemed to be further 
confirmed by the Allied landings at 
Anzio on 22 January. The Anzio beach- 
head, in the German view, had only a slim 
tactical connection with the main Italian 
front. General Jodl, Chief of the Armed 
Forces Operations Staff, considering it to 
be an independent, self-sustaining opera- 
tion, argued that it might well be the first 
of a series of attacks on the periphery of 
the Continent with the purpose of forcing 
dispersion of German reserves in prepara- 
tion for a thrust across the Channel. 6 This 
interpretation drew support from the fact 
(which the Germans found "surprising") 
that the Allies instead of at once pushing 
inland from the Anzio beaches paused for 
about a week to consolidate a beachhead, 
as though the object were not to gain tac- 
tical objectives but to attract German 
forces. Reasoning thus, Jodl told Hitler 
that they now had to reckon with a peri- 
pheral Allied strategy which would prob- 
ably entail attacks on Portugal, on the 
west and south coasts of France, or in the 
Aegean, before the assault on the Kanal- 
kueste. With regard to France, it was 
thought that the most likely Allied peri- 
pheral operations would be simultaneous 
landings on the Mediterranean and Bis- 
cay coasts to pinch off the Iberian Penin- 
sula. This threat was taken seriously 
enough that during February two new 
infantry divisions then being formed were 
attached to Nineteenth Army for defense 

5 SeekriegsleiLung/ l.Abt., KTB 1.-31.1.44, 16 Jan 
44. 

6 Die OKW Kriegsschauplaetze. 



GERMAN DEFENSE MEASURES, 1944 



233 



of the south coast and the 9th SS Panzer 
Division was released from OB WEST 
and moved south into the Avignon area 
as army reserve. One new division went 
to First Army for defense of the Biscay 
coast and Spanish border. 7 

The most important effect of the new 
appreciation, however, was to unsettle 
German plans for the defense. If the Allies 
were going to pursue a policy of many 
simultaneous or successive assaults, the 
Germans could not afford to weaken sec- 
tors not immediately under attack in 
order to concentrate on one main inva- 
sion. It would, in fact, be very difficult to 
discover which of many attacks consti- 
tuted the major threat. Partly for this 
reason, and partly because the military 
situation both in the Mediterranean area 
and in Russia was shifting so rapidly dur- 
ing the early months of 1944 that any 
plans for the future were subject to al- 
most daily changes, OKW in March can- 
celed its comprehensive defense plans. 
Instead, theater commanders were ad- 
vised that troop movements would be or- 
dered in detail only at the time they were 
needed, presumably after a given Allied 
attack had developed into a major action. 
In addition, a new plan was drawn pro- 
viding for a shift of certain units from the 
Replacement Army in Germany to any 
OKW front under heavy attack. OB 
WEST by this plan might get one corps 
headquarters, two reinforced panzer gren- 
adier regiments, one reinforced infantry 
demonstration regiment, Kampfgruppen 
of three infantry regiments which were 
cadre for new divisions, a motorized ar- 
tillery demonstration regiment, five Lan- 
desschuetzen battalions, and one Nebel- 

7 OKW/WFSt, KTB Ausarbeilung, Die Entwick- 
lung im Westen 1.1. -j 1.111.44. 



xverfer demonstration battalion. 8 These 
miscellaneous, partly green units were 
hardly a substitute for the eight divisions 
(reinforced) which would have gone to 
OB WEST under the old plan. Although 
OKW did not formally abandon the in- 
tention of drawing additional reinforce- 
ments from occupied areas not under at- 
tack, as a practical matter the possibility 
of such reinforcement had by March be- 
come negligible. With the high command 
admitting the possibility of not one but 
several landings, strategic uncertainty 
would evidently delay any possible con- 
centration. 9 

By March 1944, the German western 
defense had thus been weakened by a 
srowinu; confusion as to Allied intentions. 
This confusion, however, was a relatively 
small element in the difficulties that mul- 
tiplied for the Germans after the end of 
1943. Not threats but immediate dangers 
in both the south and east were the prin- 
cipal preoccupations of the German high 
command. For three months after Hitler 
issued his order that the west was no 
longer to be weakened in favor of the East- 
ern Front, the Germans succeeded gen- 
erally in holding the manpower dikes de- 
spite ominous cracks, and rising tides of 
Soviet victories. Just before Christmas, 
1943, the Russians launched an offensive 
on the Kiev front which in a few days 
drove nearly two hundred miles west; in 
January, Leningrad was relieved by suc- 
cessful attack against the German Army 
Group North; at the end of the month, 

8 Die OKW Kriegsschauplaetze. Landesschuetzen 
battalions were security units. Nebelwerfer were 
rocket projectors or chemical mortars. 

9 In tact only one division was moved from other 
OKW theaters to OB WEST in the first month of the 
invasion. This was the 89th Division from Norway, 
and it was committed on the Kanalkueste. 



234 



CROSS CHANNEL ATTACK 



much of the German Eighth Army was 
encircled near Cherkassy; in February, 
the Russians attacked the German Sixth 
Army in the Ukraine in a general offen- 
sive to clear the Dnepr bend. The tempta- 
tion again to corral idle divisions from the 
west was very great. But only one infan- 
try division was taken from Norway, and 
it was replaced by a unit which, though 
not completely formed, was roughly 
equivalent in combat strength. The west 
suffered only minor depredations. In 
February, three reinforced regiments be- 
ing formed in Germany and earmarked 
for OKW reserve for the west went east. 
During the same month 3,000 Russian- 
front soldiers who were suffering from 
frostbite were exchanged for a like num- 
ber of troops in the west. 10 Signs of the 
mounting pressure of the Russian war, 
these borrowings still did not constitute 
important weakening of the west. 

But at the end of January the Anzio 
landings had opened another small crack. 
The Germans reacted to the Anzio attack 
in force, not only because they believed 
it to be the first of a series of major Allied 
amphibious assaults, but because they saw 
the possibility of gaining political prestige 
by wiping out at least one Allied beach- 
head. In accordance with plans for meet- 
ing a large-scale landing in the southwest, 
the fully motorized 715th Division was 
ordered out of France. By 4 February, 
however, it was seen that this reinforce- 
ment was not enough to crush the Anzio 
beachhead and General Jodl asked Hitler 
for permission to move in the 9th SS 
Panzer Division, the only fully combat- 
ready armored division in France. Hitler 
refused. With an eye on the large Allied 

10 Die OKW Kriegsschauplaetze; OKW/WFSt, 
KTB Ausarbeitung, Osten 1.1.-31111.44. 



reserve forces in North Africa, he feared 
an attack against the Mediterranean coast 
of France. He doubted, furthermore, 
whether the 9th SS Panzer Division, even 
if eventually returned to France, could 
make up its losses in Italy, particularly in 
equipment. OB WEST thus survived that 
crisis. But the loss of the 715th Division, 
which because of its unusual mobility had 
been included with the reserve armored 
force, was serious enough. 11 

Much worse was to come. In March, the 
manpower dikes broke wide open as the 
Soviet Union launched a new offensive, 
and at the same time fears increased that 
Hungary was getting ready to pull out of 
the war. These circumstances forced tem- 
porary abandonment of the principles of 
Hitler's Directive No. 51. The bulk of the 
troops for the occupation of Hungary 
(carried out in the latter part of the 
month) were to be furnished by the Com- 
mander in Chief Southeast from the Bal- 
kans, and by the Replacement Army, but 
OB WEST had to send the Panzer Lehr 
Division, a corps headquarters, some air- 
craft, and a few minor units. The plan 
was to return all these units as soon as 
Hungary was firmly in German hands. 
In fact, the occupation took place rapidly 
and smoothly and the bulk of the Hun- 
garian Army remained under arms and 
continued to fight for the Germans. The 
Panzer Lehr Division thus was actually 
able to come back to France in May. But 
two divisions from the Replacement 
Army and two of the divisions contrib- 
uted by the Commander in Chief South- 
east were shuttled on to the Russian front 
and a third was saved only by a last-min- 
ute appeal to Hitler. The loss indirectly 

11 OKW/WFSt, KTB Ausarbeitung, Die Kaempfe 
urn den Brueckenkopf Nettuno 22.1. -31.111.4 4. 



GERMAN DEFENSE MEASURES, 1944 



235 



affected the west in that it further re- 
duced the reserves available to meet the 
invasion. 

Witli the Russian armies again on the 
move and threatening to collapse the 
whole southern wing of the German de- 
fense, the danger of invasion in the west 
for a time dimmed by comparison. The 
Russians attacked on 4 March. On the 9th 
Uman fell; the Germans evacuated Kher- 
son and Gayvoron on the 14th. Still the 
Russian armies suffered no check. Before 
the end of the month they crossed the 
Bug, Dnestr, and Pruth Rivers. In Galicia 
they temporarily encircled the German 
First Panzer Army. The crisis for the Ger- 
mans was too desperate to permit con- 
sideration of long-range plans. Reinforce- 
ments were needed at once and they had 
to be taken wherever they could be found. 
On 10 March the 361st Division was or- 
dered out of Denmark, and replaced with 
a division of much lower combat value. 
Two weeks later a similar exchange re- 
moved the 349th Division from France 
and brought as a substitute a new weak 
division, the 331st, from the Replacement 
Army. At about the same time four divi- 
sions under OB WEST (the 326th, 346th, 
348th, and 19th Luftwaffe Field) were 
ordered to give up all their assault guns, 
initially to strengthen Romanian forces 
and later to be distributed to various di- 
visions along the whole Eastern Front. 
The big ax fell on 26 March when the 
whole II SS Panzer Corps with the 9th 
and 10th SS Panzer Divisions received 
marching orders to leave France and go 
to the assistance of the First Panzer 
Army. 12 

The departure of the 77 SS Panzer 
Corps left OB WEST with only one fully 

12 Die OKW Kriegsschauplaetze. 



mobile division (the 21st Panzer). The 
OKW historian has suggested that, had 
the Allies invaded at that time, Rundstedt 
could have offered no effective resist- 
ance. 13 This may be an exaggeration, but 
it is true that the end of March 1944 
marked one of the low points of prepared- 
ness in the west and that during the next 
six weeks, with the Russian front rela- 
tively stabilized, the west did much to re- 
coup its losses. By the middle of May four 
panzer divisions were ready for combat 
(despite deficiencies of equipment) and 
four more were being built up. Toward 
the end of the month Panzer Lehr Divi- 
sion returned from Hungary and the 1st 
SS Panzer Division from the Eastern 
Front was attached to OB WEST for re- 
building. At the same time the XLVII 
Panzer Corps under General der Panzer- 
truppen Hans Freiherr von Funck, one 
of the oldest and most experienced ar- 
mored commanders in the German Army, 
was brought from the east to serve under 
Rundstedt. 

Actually the recuperative powers of the 
west under the severe and continuing 
strain of supplying transfusions to the 
east were remarkable. Between Novem- 
ber 1943 and June 1944, the total of com- 
bat divisions under Rundstedt's com- 
mand increased from forty-six to fifty- 
eight. The increase was accounted for in 
part by the transfer of f ought-out units 
from Russia but in larger part by the 
formation of new units. In the fall of 
1942 the German Army, already sore- 
pressed for manpower, adopted the policy 
of combining training with occupation 
duties. The old combined recruiting and 
training units were split, and the recruit 
henceforth after induction into a recruit- 
is Ibid. 



236 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



ing unit near his home was sent to an af- 
filiated training unit in the field. In 1943 
about two-thirds of these training units 
were located in France, the Low Coun- 
tries, Denmark, Poland, Lithuania, the 
Soviet Union, and northern Italy. The in- 
fantry and panzer units were organized 
into reserve divisions of which twenty-six 
(including four panzer) were formed 
during 1942 and 1943. Half of these were 
stationed in the OB WEST sector. 
Though they remained under the com- 
mander of the Replacement Army and 
theoretically retained their primary func- 
tion of training replacements, in reality 
they came to be regarded as low-grade 
field divisions. Their time was increas- 
ingly devoted to garrison duty and on oc- 
casion to fighting Resistance forces. In 
order to carry out these duties, they re- 
ceived administrative attachments from 
the regular field army. As their opera- 
tional responsibilities expanded and they 
began to occupy a permanent place on 
OB WEST'S order of battle, it became im- 
possible for them to give up personnel for 
filler replacements to regular units. In 
short they became themselves an integral 
part of the field army. In recognition of 
this fact, most of them were eventually re- 
designated as infantry or armored divi- 
sions. Six of OB WEST's reserve divi- 
sions, including all three reserve panzer 
divisions, had thus been upgraded before 
the invasion. Five of the remaining seven 
were similarly converted in the summer 
of 1944; the other two were disbanded. 14 
Besides converting reserve divisions; 
the Commander in Chief West enlarged 
his army by rehabilitating German units 



14 WD TM-E #30-451; Military Intelligence Di- 
vision, The German Replacement Army (Ersatzheer). 



from the east as already noted, and by ac- 
tivating new divisions out of miscellane- 
ous personnel drawn in part from his own 
resources and in part from the Replace- 
ment Army. The effect of all this on the 
organization and character of the west 
army must be described in some detail, 
but in summary it may be said that the 
steady drain of the Eastern Front left to 
Rundstedt on the eve of his great battle 
two kinds of units: old divisions which 
had lost much of their best personnel and 
equipment, and new divisions, some of 
excellent combat value, some only par- 
tially equipped and partially trained. The 
majority of the new divisions were formed 
according to streamlined tables of organi- 
zation designed generally to use the fewest 
possible men to produce the maximum 
fire power. 

Organization for Combat 

Between 1939 and 1943 the German 
standard infantry division contained 
three regiments with a total of nine rifle 
battalions. Each of the infantry regiments 
had, besides its twelve rifle and heavy 
weapons companies, a 13th (infantry 
howitzer) and 14th (antitank) company. 
The division had also an antitank and a 
reconnaissance battalion. Organic artil- 
lery consisted of one regiment of one 
medium (150-mm. howitzer) and three 
light (105-mm. howitzer or gun) bat- 
talions with a total armament of forty- 
eight pieces. German division artillery 
was thus roughly equal to that of a U.S. 
division. Chiefly because of the antitank 
and reconnaissance units, on the other 
hand, the division with 17,200 men was 
substantially larger than its U.S. counter- 
part. 



GERMAN DEFENSE MEASURES, 1944 



237 



It was also substantially larger than 
could be supported by the dwindling sup- 
ply of manpower alter lour years of war. 
In October 1943 the division was dras- 
tically overhauled to reduce its size while 
maintaining its fire power. Organization 
charts of the new-style division (with 
13,656 men) comprising three regiments 
of two battalions each had only just been 
published when further slashes were or- 
dered. The problem (set in January 1944 
by Hitler) was to trim the personnel to 
something like 11,000 without affecting 
the combat strength. Army planners re- 
jected this sleight of hand as impossible 
and contented themselves with a further 
cut from 13,656 to 12,769. Reductions 
were made chiefly in supply and overhead, 
and the proportion of combat to service 
troops was thereby raised to 75-80 per- 
cent. The result was the so-called 1944- 
type infantry division. 15 

The reduction from nine infantry bat- 
talions to six was partly alleviated by the 
substitution of a Fuesilier battalion for 
the old reconnaissance unit. The Fuesilier 
battalion, still charged with reconnais- 
sance duties, was organized like a rifle bat- 
talion except that one company was 
equipped with bicycles and the unit had 
slightly more horse-drawn vehicles and 
some motor transport. In practice the 
Fuesilier battalion came to be reckoned 
as a seventh rifle battalion. 

Besides lopping off three battalions, the 
new division pruned out the rifle squad 
and company while at the same time in- 
creasing the proportion of automatic 
weapons. 16 The basic unit, the rifle com- 

lfl OKH/Org.Abt., KTB Anlagen, 1944. 

10 It should be noted that this process, while forced 
by the shortage of manpower, also followed the di- 
rection of German tactical doctrine which always 



pany, was cut to 140 enlisted men and 2 
officers, as compared with the U.S. com- 
pany of 187 enlisted men and 6 officers. 
Rifle strength in the German division was 
about 1,200 less than in the American but 
the total division fire power was superior. 
About equal in artillery, the German di- 
vision enjoyed a slight preponderance in 
infantry howitzers, and a heavy superior- 
ity in automatic weapons. 17 

The 1944 infantry division was set up 
as the basic type for new divisions as well 
as for the reorganization of certain old 
formations, as for instance, the Luftwaffe 
field divisions. 18 The division which in- 
cluded the bulk of Rundstedt's infantry, 
however, the static (bodenstaendige) di- 
vision, was exempted from reorganization 
unless specifically so ordered. The static 
divisions were formed at the request of 
Rundstedt in 1942 in order that he would 
have a nucleus of divisions not subject to 
transfer to the east. Though triangular 
with nine rifle battalions, they were sub- 
stantially weaker than the normal old- 
type infantry division. They lacked the 
reconnaissance battalion and had only 
three battalions of artillery. 19 

Although the static divisions were ex- 
pressly designed as permanent garrison 
troops for the west, they were by no means 
safe from the periodic troop collections 



emphasized small infantry units equipped with maxi- 
mum automatic fire power. 

17 See App. F, Comparative Fire Power of the U.S. 
and German 1944-type Infantry Divisions. 

18 These divisions, of which there were twenty, 
are not separately discussed since they played no 
part in the fighting described in this book. They 
were formed of Luftwaffe personnel, remained at first 
administratively under the Luftwaffe, and then were 
integrated into the Army. 

19 OKH/Org.Abt., KTB 1 .1 .-31 .VU .42, 31 Jul 42; 
Organisation des Heeres, Band 10 in Befehlshaber 
des Ersalzheeres. Allgemeines Heeresamt. 



238 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



for the east. Actually, by the end of 1943, 
most of the divisions had lost their third 
regiments. Attempts in 1943 and early 
1944 to rehabilitate the units and fill 
their ranks chiefly with Ost battalions re- 
sulted in virtual abandonment of tables 
of organization in favor of improvisation 
that reflected both the particular nature 
of the coastal assignments and the vicissi- 
tudes of the long struggle for manpower 
and equipment. In total strength and 
number and variety of combat units the 
static divisions bore little resemblance to 
one another. While the 716th Division, 
for instance, had six battalions and only 
one regimental headquarters under its 
control on D Day, 20 the 709th, occupying 
two and a half times as long a coast line, 
had eleven battalions under three regi- 
ments. 

Even after the 1944-type division had 
been standardized, experimentation con- 
tinued. Certain divisions (notably the 
77th and 91st in Seventh Army area) or- 
ganized their six rifle battalions in two 
regiments. They lacked the fuesilier bat- 
talion and had three instead of four artil- 
lery battalions. 21 In the case of the 77th 
Division this organic lack was partly made 
up by the attachment of an Ost battery 
and a Volga-Tatar rifle battalion. The 
91st Division went into combat with an 
attached parachute regiment. The two- 
regiment infantry division therefore did 
not operate in T/O form in the invasion 
area, and for the German Army as a whole 
it may be regarded as experimental and 
eccentric, designed further to conserve 

20 Its second regiment was attached to the }52d 
Division. See below, Ch. VIII. 

21 Tables of Organization show an antitank com- 
pany instead of the normal battalion. The 77th Divi- 
sion, however, had a two-company antitank battalion 
with 24 guns (75-mm. and 50-mm.) . 



manpower but not accepted as a generally 
satisfactory solution. 

The best infantry units in the 1944 Ger- 
man Army were the parachute divisions, 
administratively under the Luftwaffe but 
tactically always subordinated to Army 
command. Until the fall of 1943 German 
airborne forces comprised only one corps 
with two parachute divisions. At that time 
Goering proposed and Hitler approved a 
program intended to produce by the end 
of 1944 two parachute armies with a total 
strength of about 1 00,000 men. They were 
to be an elite arm and were put on an 
equal status with the SS units in recruit- 
ing, armament, equipment, and train- 
ing. 22 

Of the new parachute units created 
during the early months of 1944, OB 
WEST received the 3d and 5th Divisions 
and the 6th Parachute Regiment (from 
the 2d Parachute Division). 23 Only the 
separate regiment and the 3d Division 
were encountered during the fighting de- 
scribed in this volume. Both were first- 
rate fighting units. 

The 3d Parachute Division comprised 
three regiments of three battalions each 
and in addition had in each regiment a 
13th (mortar) company, 14th (antitank) 
company, and 15th (engineer) company. 
The mortar company in the 6th Para- 
chute Regiment actually contained the 
nine heavy (120-mm.) mortars which the 
tables of organization called for, but in 
the 3d Parachute Division weaponing 

22 MS # B-839 (von der Heydte) . 

23 When its parent 2d Parachute Division was sent 
to Russia in November 1943, the 6th Parachute 
Regiment was left in Germany to provide cadre for 
the 3d Parachute Division. The regiment, while still 
formally organic to the 2d Parachute Division, was 
reconstituted under the direct command of the First 
Parachute Army. 



GERMAN DEFENSE MEASURES, 1944 



239 



was miscellaneous, including 100-mm. 
mortars and 105-mm. Nebelwerfer. 2i The 
parachute division had only one battalion 
of light artillery (twelve 70-mm. how- 
itzers). An order of 12 May 1944 to sub- 
stitute an artillery regiment with two 
light battalions and one medium was not 
carried out before the division entered 
combat. The same order called for forma- 
tion of a heavy mortar battalion (with 
thirty-six 120-mm. mortars) but this, too, 
was apparently not complied with. Dur- 
ing April and May the division was able 
to constitute its antiaircraft battalion 
which had, besides light antiaircraft artil- 
lery, twelve 88-mm. guns. The total 
ration strength of the division as of 22 
May was 17,420. The strength of the 6th 
Parachute Regiment with fifteen com- 
panies was 3,457. Both were thus con- 
siderably larger than the normal corres- 
ponding infantry units. They were su- 
perior not only in numbers but in quality. 
Entirely formed from volunteers, they 
were composed principally of young men 
whose fighting morale was excellent. 25 



24 Kriegsgliederung, 18 May 44. Seventh Army, 
KTB Aniagen 1 .1 '.-30 .VI .44 ; cf. MS # B-839 (von der 
Heydtc) . Wcaponing of the 6th Parachute Regiment 
is as given in Seventh Army organization charts. Von 
der Heydte's report differs slightly. He says the regi- 
ment originally had twelve 105-mm. Nebelwerfer, 
but as the manufacture of these was discontinued 
they were gradually replaced, partly by 81-mm. 
mortars and partly by 120-mm. mortars. 

25 MS # .B-839 (von der Heydte) . The 6th Para- 
chute Regiment was fully trained in jumping. Each 
man had made at least nine jumps, including three 
night descents. About three-quarters of the men of 
the 3d Parachute Division had some jump training 
but this was because the division received trained 
paratroopers as cadre. The division itself did not 
carry out jump training. MS # B-401 (General der 
Fallschirmtruppen Eugen Meindl, CG // Parachute 
Corps) . Apparently neither of the parachute divi- 
sions in France was equipped with parachutes. See 
MS # B-283 (Blumentritt) . 



The average age of the enlisted men of 
the 6th Parachute Regiment was 17i/2- 
The parachute units were also much bet- 
ter armed than corresponding army units. 
The rifle companies of the 6th Parachute 
Regiment had twice as many light ma- 
chine guns as the infantry division rifle 
companies. The heavy weapons com- 
panies with twelve heavy machine guns 
and six medium mortars each were also 
superior in fire power to army units. Chief 
weakness of the parachute troops was one 
they shared with the rest of Rundstedt's 
army— their lack of motor transport. The 
6th Parachute Regiment, for instance, 
had only seventy trucks and these com- 
prised fifty different models. 26 

Theoretically, about on a par with the 
parachute divisions were the panzer gren- 
adier divisions which, by American 
standards, were infantry divisions with 
organic tank battalions, some armored 
personnel carriers, and some self-pro- 
pelled artillery. The only such division 
in the west during the invasion period 
was the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Divi- 
sion (Goetz von Berlichingen). Like all 
SS divisions it was substantially stronger 
than the corresponding army division. On 
the other hand, like so many west divi- 
sions, its combat strength in fact was much 
less than it appeared on paper. Its six rifle 
battalions were organized in two regi- 
ments which were supposed to be motor- 
ized; one battalion was supposed to be ar- 
mored. In reality four of the battalions 
had improvised motor transport (partly 
Italian), two being equipped with bi- 
cycles. The "tank" battalion had thirty- 
seven assault guns, five less than author- 
ized. The division had no tanks. Intended 



26 MS # B-839 (von der Heydte) . 



240 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



personnel strength was 18,354, of which 
on 1 June the division actually mustered 
17,321. The antitank battalion, supposed 
to consist of three companies of self-pro- 
pelled guns, had actually only one com- 
pany, equipped with nine 75-mm. and 
three 76.2-mm. guns. The division had a 
full armored reconnaissance battalion of 
six companies, and an antiaircraft bat- 
talion. The latter contained twelve towed 
88-mm. guns as well as guns of smaller 
calibers, but lacked almost a fifth of its 
personnel. 27 

To meet the invasion in June, OB 
WEST had six army and three SS panzer 
divisions. Their strength and organiza- 
tion varied so widely that it is impossible 
to talk of a type. Personnel strength of the 
army divisions ranged from 12,768 (9 th 
Panzer) to 16,466 (2d Panzer)?* The SS 
divisions, which had six instead of four 
infantry battalions, varied from 17,590 
(9th SS Panzer) 29 to 21,386 (1st SS 
Panzer). All the panzer divisions were 
thus much larger than their American 
counterparts, the 1st SS being more than 
twice as large. On the other hand they all 
had fewer tanks. Here again individual 
variations were enormous. The type or- 
ganizational tables for both army and SS 
divisions called for a tank regiment with 
one battalion of Mark IV and one bat- 

27 Status Report, 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Divi- 
sion "Goetz von Berlichingen ," 1 Jun 44. General- 
inspekteur der Panzertruppen, Zustandsberichte , SS- 
Verbaende V111.43-V11.44. Substitution of assault 
guns (generally 75-mm. guns without turrets, on self- 
propelled chassis) for tanks became quite usual in 
the panzer grenadier division. 

28 Overstrength of 296 apparently accounted for by 
an attached "tank" battalion, armed with assault 
guns. 

29 The 9th SS Panzer Division was brought back to 
France during June. See below, Ch. X. The three 
SS panzer divisions under OB WEST on 6 June were 
the 1st, 2d and 12th. 



talion of Mark V tanks. Each battalion 
was supposed to have four companies each 
with twenty-two tanks. The fact was 
quite different. Even the 2d Panzer Divi- 
sion, the best prepared of the armored 
divisions on D Day, had less than its au- 
thorized number of the heavier Mark 
Vs. 30 Each of the divisions had a separate 
and slightly different organization which 
in no case conformed to the type. The 1st 
SS Panzer Division, for instance, was sup- 
posed to have 45 assault guns, 21 Mark 
III, 101 Mark IV, and 81 Mark V tanks. 
It had in fact the full complement of as- 
sault guns but only 88 tanks in all, includ- 
ing 50 IV's and 38 Vs. The table of or- 
ganization for the 2d SS Panzer Division, 
on the other hand, called for 75 assault 
guns of which 33 were on hand on 1 June; 
7 Mark III tanks, none on hand; 57 Mark 
IV tanks, 44 on hand; and 99 Mark V's, 25 
on hand. 31 

The army panzer divisions included, in 
addition to the two regiments (four bat- 
talions) of infantry and one tank regi- 
ment, a self-propelled antitank battalion 
(armed more often with assault guns), an 
armored reconnaissance battalion, a 
towed antiaircraft battalion and an artil- 
lery regiment with one light self-pro- 
pelled battalion, one light towed battal- 
ion, and one medium towed battalion. 
SS divisions had an additional towed 
light battalion. 

The miscellaneous tank armament of 
the panzer divisions was typical of the 
weaponing of nearly all units in the west 
and reflected the long drain on the Ger- 

3° It had 94 Mark IV's and 67 Mark V's. 

31 Status Reports, 1st SS Panzer Division "Leib- 
standarte Adolf Hitler," and 2d SS Panzer Division 
"Das Reich," 1 Jun 44. Generalinspekteur der Panzer- 
truppen, Zustandsberichte, SS-Verbaende VIII.43- 
VII. 44. 



GERMAN DEFENSE MEASURES, 1944 



241 



man war economy of the Russian war and 
the increasing production difficulties im- 
posed by the accelerating Allied air offen- 
sive. As long as the Russian front was the 
main theater of war and the west was not 
immediately threatened, it was natural to 
ship the bulk of the best materiel to the 
east and arm the west as well as possible 
with what was left. The policy of equip- 
ping west divisions primarily with cap- 
tured materiel was laid down in Decem- 
ber 1941 when ten divisions were ordered 
so equipped. 32 The east continued to en- 
joy priority on new equipment until the 
end of 194 '5, and although German-made 
tanks and assault guns were shipped to 
OB WEST during that time the deliveries 
were often more than outweighed by the 
transfer of armored units. First-class ar- 
mored equipment remained a compara- 
tive rarity in divisions assigned to OB 
WEST until 1944. At the end of October 
1943, for instance, there were in the west 
703 tanks, assault guns, and self-propelled 
88-mm. antitank guns (called "Hor- 
nets"). At the end of December the num- 
ber had risen only to 823, the increase 
being largely in the lighter Mark IV tank. 
All the Hornets and Tiger (Mark VI) 
tanks had been shipped out to the Rus- 
sian front, and the stock of assault guns 
was considerably decreased. The total of 
823, moreover, compared to a planned 
build-up of 1 ,226. 33 The new year brought 
a change. January showed only a slight 
increase, but thereafter the deliveries to 
the west were speeded up. Although most 

32 Memo, OKH/Org.Abt. for OKH/Op.Abt., Um- 
bewafjnung von Westdivisionen auf Beutewaffen, 6 
Dec 41. OKH/Op.Abt., Kraefte Westen, Allgemein, 
Band II, 13.X.41-25.VII.42. 

33 This and the following material on tanks is from 
Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen, Fuehrervor- 
tragsnotizen, Band I, 3. IV. 43-1. VI. 44. 



new Tiger tanks continued to go to the 
east, deliveries to OB WEST of the power- 
ful Panther (Mark V) tank were notably 
increased. At the end of April OB WEST 
had 1 ,608 German-made tanks and assault 
guns of which 674 were Mark IV tanks 
and 514 Mark Vs. The planned total for 
the end of May was 1,994. 34 

Against the background of disintegrat- 
ing German war economy, the tank build- 
up in the west was a notable achievement 
that strikingly revealed the importance 
assigned to the forthcoming struggle with 
the Western Allies. Exponents of the 
theories of Blitzkrieg, like Generaioberst 
Heinz Guderian, the Inspector General 
of Panzer Troops, believed that without 
a large armored striking force Germany 
could not hope to return to offensive op- 
erations essential for ultimate victory. In 
late 1943, therefore, Guderian proposed 
and Hitler approved a scheme to form a 
ten-division strategic armored reserve 
while at the same time trying to bring all 
armored divisions up to strength in equip- 
ment. The need, in short, was for new 
tanks in large numbers. But the combined 
pressure of the Allied air offensive and 
Russian ground attack was rapidly creat- 
ing an economic quagmire in which the 
harder the enemy struggled the deeper he 
sank. Russian armies were destroying 
existing tanks while Allied bombers were 
making it increasingly difficult to pro- 
duce new ones. The Germans tried to find 
an answer in diverting additional men, 
materials, and factory space into the man- 
ufacture of tanks. One result was to cur- 
tail the production of prime movers and 
parts. But without prime movers in ade- 
quate numbers the German armies in 

34 In addition, units in the west still had a con- 
siderable number of French and Russian tanks. 



242 



CROSS CHANNEL ATTACK 



Russia were unable to withdraw their 
heavy guns or retrieve tanks that were 
damaged or out of fuel. Between October 
and December 1943, 979 Mark III and IV 
tanks and 444 assault guns were lost, in 
large part because they had to be aban- 
doned in retreat. Similarly between July 
and December 2,235 artillery pieces and 
1,692 antitank guns were captured or de- 
stroyed. General Guderian at last pointed 
out that there was little sense in produc- 
ing more tanks and guns if they were to 
be thus recklessly sacrificed. 

A still more important by-product of 
concentrating on tank manufacture at the 
expense of a balanced production pro- 
gram was the increasingly serious lack of 
spare parts. In June 1943 the Germans 
had 2,569 operational tanks with 463 in 
process of repair. In February 1944, only 
1,519 tanks remained operational while 
1,534 were under repair. During Feb- 
ruary, moreover, only 145 damaged tanks 
were actually returned to the front. On 
the first of the month, Guderian esti- 
mated that the tanks and assault guns 
awaiting repair equaled about nine 
months' new production. At the end of 
March, the situation had not improved; 
the number of operational tanks was still 
decreasing despite accelerated deliveries 
of new machines. 

Although the German Army in the 
west on the eve of its great test was con- 
siderably weaker than planned in equip- 
ment, quality, and numbers, it was never- 
theless a force strong enough to hope for 
victory in a battle in which Allied ma- 
teriel superiority would be partly coun- 
teracted by the natural advantages of a 
coast line defense. \Mai) V )\ Under 
Rundstedt's command on 1 June 1944 
were 58 combat divisions of which 33 



were either static or reserve, suitable 
only for limited defense employment. 
There were 24 divisions classified as fit 
for duty in the east by reason of their 
relative mobility and high-grade person- 
nel. They included 1 3 infantry divisions, 
2 parachute divisions, 5 army panzer di- 
visions, and 4 SS panzer and panzer gre- 
nadier divisions. One panzer division 
(the 21st), being still equipped in part 
with captured materiel, was not consid- 
ered suitable for service in Russia, al- 
though in other respects it was ready for 
offensive use, and in fact had exceptional 
strength in heavy weapons. 35 

All the infantry divisions were com- 
mitted on or directly behind the coast 
under the command of one of the four 
armies or the German Armed Forces 
Commander Netherlands. 36 The four 
armies were the First holding the At- 
lantic coast of France, the Seventh occu- 
pying Brittany and most of Normandy, 
the Fifteenth along the Kanalkueste, and 
the Nineteenth defending the French 
Mediterranean coast. The Seventh Army, 
which was to meet the actual invasion, 
had fourteen infantry (including static) 
divisions under the control of four 
corps. 37 

Command and Tactics 

It may be that the most serious weak- 
ness of the German defense in the west 

35 MS # B-44I (Generalleutnant Edgar Feuch- 
tinger, CG 21st Panzer Division) . 

36 Wehrmachtbefehlshaber Niederlande. Equiva- 
lent in size to a corps command. 

v Seventh Army (LXXXIV Corps) also had re- 
sponsibility for defense of the Channel Islands and 
commanded the 319th Division stationed there. 
But, since this division never figured in any of the 
fighting and because of Hitler's orders could not 
even be considered as a reserve, it will not be in- 
cluded in any calculations of Seventh Army's strength. 



GERMAN DEFENSE MEASURES, 1944 



243 



was not the shortage of men and materiel 
but the lack of a unified command. While 
Rundstedt was charged with the entire 
responsibility for the defense of France 
and the Low Countries, his powers were 
far from commensurate with that respon- 
sibility. He had, in the first place, no 
command over air and naval units. The 
four air corps that comprised the fighter 
and bomber aircraft stationed in the 
west were under command of the Third 
Air Force (Generalfeldmarschall Hugo 
Sperrle), which in turn was directly sub- 
ordinate to OKL. Similarly Navy Group 
West, which under Admiral Theodor 
Krancke commanded the destroyers, tor- 
pedo boats, and smaller naval vessels 
based in the ports within Rundstedt's 
jurisdiction, was responsible directly to 
OKM. Rundstedt could issue no orders 
to either Sperrle or Krancke; he could 
only request their co-operation. [Charts 

330 

^if and naval forces were too small to 
have decisive effect on the battle. From 
Rundstedt's point of view the more im- 
portant limitation of his power was the 
fragmentation of the command over the 
ground forces. Some of this fragmenta- 
tion was normal and universal in the 
German military establishment. The 
Third Air Force had, for instance, be- 
sides command of the flying units, ad- 
ministrative control over parachute 
troops and the antiaircraft units that 
were under the 777 Flak Corps. 3 * Navy 
Group West controlled through regional 
commanders not only ships and shore in- 
stallations but most of the coastal artil- 
lery, although command of the latter was 

38 Tactically and for purposes of supply /// Flak 
Corps was under the Luftgaukommando Westfrank- 
reich. 



mixed. The Navy had complete juris- 
diction before operations on land had 
begun. Afterward, firing on sea targets 
remained a naval responsibility, but at 
the moment of enemy landing, in most 
cases, command of the batteries in the 
beachhead area was to pass to the Army. 
Virtually the whole burden of tying in 
the important naval batteries to the 
coastal defense was thus shifted to the 
initiative of local commanders. 

A similar division of command affected 
the employment of the security troops 
which as instruments of the occupation 
were normally under the two military 
governors (Militaerbefehlshaber), France 
and Northern France (including Bel- 
gium). The military governors were 
directly subordinated to OKH, but for 
purposes of repelling invasion their se- 
curity troops might be tactically under 
OB WEST. In preparation against inva- 
sion, the Commander in Chief West 
could only direct that the military gov- 
ernors co-operate with the army groups 
in matters affecting the latter's authority 
and undertake to settle any differences 
that might arise between them. Even this 
control was limited. Employment of se- 
curity troops could only be ordered by 
the Commander in Chief West "in mat- 
ters outside the scope of security." 39 

During 1944 OB WEST's authority 
was abridged in special ways. In Novem- 
ber 1943, it will be recalled, Field 
Marshal Rommel had taken command of 
the Army Group for Special Employ- 
ment, which was charged at first with in- 

39 Grundlegender Befehl des Oberbefehlshabers 
West Nr. 38, Neuregelung der Befehlsgliederung 
im Ob. West-Bereich, 7 May 44, cited hereafter as 
OB WEST Grundlegender Befehl Nr. 38. OKW/- 
WFSt, Op. (H.), Grundlegende Befehle West 28.1V. 42- 
7.V.44. 



244 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



SUPREME COMMANDER OF THE ARMED FORCES 
HITLER 



OKW 

ARMED FORCES 
HIGH COMMAND 
KE1TEL 



OKM 

NAVY 
HIGH COMMAND 



LUFTWAFFE 
HIGH COMMAND 



OKH 

ARMY 
HIGH COMMAND 



MILITARY 
GOVERNORS 

BELGIUM- 
N. FRANCE 
AND FRANCE 

SECURITY 
TROOPS 



OB WEST 

m:\dstedt 



ARMY GROUP G 

BLASKOWITS 

FIRST ARMY 

NINETEENTH 
ARMY 

LXVT CORPS 
(RES) 

157th DIV 
! (RES) ! 



NAVY GROUP 
WEST 
KRASCKE 
NAVAL UNITS 
SHORE 
INSTALLATIONS 
NAVAL COASTAL 
BATTERIES 



ARMY GROUP B 



ROM M EE 



ARMED FORCES 
NETHERLANDS 
(LXXXVIII CORPS) 
FIFTEENTH ARMY 

SEVENTH ARMY 

1 II 

! PRCHT CORPS ! 



THIRD AIR 

FORCE 
SPERRLE 
FOUR AIR CORPS 
III FLAK CORPS 



PERSOXAL ACCESS 



STAFF, PANZER 
GROUP WEST 

GEYR r. 
SCHW EPPEXBURG 



I R A I X / \ (, 
1 



ARMY GROUP G 

RESERVES 
LVIII PZ CORPS 
(RES) 

9th and 1 1th 
PZ DIVS 

I 2d SS PZ DIV \ 



ARMY GROUP B 
RESERVES 



2d. 1 16th, and 2 1st 
PZ DIVS 





OKW RESERVES 






! HQ I SS PZ CORPs"! 




! 1st SS, 12th SS. nih SS ! 




' PZ GR DIVS • 




1 J 




PZ LEHR DIV 



Chart 2.— German Chain of Command in the West, May 1944 



GERMAN DEFENSE MEASURES, 1944 



245 



THIRD AIR FORCE 

S PER RLE 



IX 

AIR CORPS 



Miscellaneous 

bomber 

squadrons. 



AIR CORPS 



Includes Naval 
Air Ren Units 
and miscella- 
neous bomber 
squadrons. 



2 AIR 
DIVISION 



Bombers and 
torpedo bombers. 



II 

AIR CORPS 



II 

FIGHTER 
CORPS 



No units. 
Hq merged with 
II Fighter 
Corps in late 
June 1944. 



4 FIGHTER 
DIVISION 



Miscellaneous 
day and night 
tighter squadrons. 



RECON- 
NAISSANCE 
UNITS 



Major units 
comprised 5 and 
123 Long Range 
Ren Groups and 
1 3 Close Ren 
Groups. 



5 FIGHTER 
DIVISION 



Miscellaneous 
day and night 
fighter squadrons. 



Chart 3.— Luftwaffe Command in the West 



OKM 

does r IV. 



C IN C 
U-BOATS 
DOES I T/ 



NAVY GROUP WEST 
KRASCKE 



CMDK. 
U-BOATS 
WEST 



DESTROYER 
FLOTILLA 



TORPEDO 

BOAT 
FLOTILLA 



TORPEDO 

BOAT 
FLOTILLA 



CM DR. 
S-BOOTE 



(These units • 
N.», Group \ 
Security Dims: 



subordinated dir 
>r detached to on 



ctly to 
of the 



SMALL 
BATTLE 
UNITS 

(One-man 

midget subs. 



COM 
MAND1NG 
ADMIRAL, 
SECURITY 
FORCES 

WEST 



COM- 
MANDING 
ADMIRAL. 
NAVAL 
TROOPS 
PARIS 



COM- 
MANDING 
ADMIRAL, 
SOUTHERN 
FRANCE 
COAST 



COM- 
MANDING 
ADMIRAL, 
ATLANTIC 
COAST 



COM- 
MANDING 
ADMIRAL, 
KANAL- 
K.UESTE 



■ SECURITY 
DIVISION 



id 

■ SECURITY 
DIVISION 



- SECURITY 
DIVISION 



NAVAL COM- 
MANDERS 



LANGL'EDOC 



NAVAL COM 
M ANDERS 

HRITTANY 

LOIRE 

GASCONY 



NAVAL COM- 
MANDERS 



NORMANDY 



CHANNEL 
ISLANDS 



- SECURITY 
DIVISION 



Chart 4.— German Naval Command in the West 



246 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



spection of the western defenses and the 
preparation of plans for counterattack 
against the main Allied landings wher- 
ever these might take place. Ultimately 
the Rommel headquarters was to conduct 
the main battle against the invading 
forces. About the middle of December, 
Rommel, having completed the first of 
his tasks, the inspection of the coastal de- 
fenses of Denmark, arrived in France 
and began a survey of the Fifteenth Army 
sector. Both he and Rundstedt recognized 
at once that it was neither logical nor 
practical for the Special Army Group to 
remain outside the theater chain of com- 
mand. 40 Its independence could only be 
a source of friction and inefficiency. On 
30 December Rundstedt recommended 
that it be subordinated to OB WEST as 
Army Group B with command of the 
Seventh and Fifteenth Armies and of the 
German Armed Forces of the Nether- 
lands. Whether the initial suggestion for 
this change came first from Rommel or 
from Rundstedt, it was clearly in the be- 
ginning agreeable to both. 41 Since the 
main Allied invasion was likely to strike 
somewhere along the Channel coast, it 
made sense to put Rommel in immediate 
command there in order to familiarize 
him with his task and allow him to take 
such steps as he found necessary to 



40 Ltr, Rundstedt to Salmuth, 27 Dec 43. Fifteenth 
Army, KTB Anlagen, Chefsachen 26. X. -27 .XII .43; 
MS # A-982 (Vizeadmiral Friedrich Ruge, Navy 
liaison officer with Army Group B); MS # C-069b 
(Ruge) ; MS # C-069c (Buttlar-Brandenfels) ; MS 
# C-069e (Warlimont) ; MS # C-069f (Rundstedt) . 

41 The change was logical and there is nothing in 
the rather fragmentary contemporary record to con- 
firm the thesis of the OB WEST history (MS # T- 
121) that Rommel was forced on OB WEST from 
above and was unwanted. Cf. MS # C-069a (Blum- 
entritt) ; MS # C-069d (Zimmermann) ; MS # C- 
069e (Warlimont) ; MS # C-069f (Rundstedt) . 



strengthen the defense. Hitler approved 
but warned OB WEST that the Rommel 
headquarters was still to be considered 
available for commitment elsewhere. 42 
Rundstedt accepted the condition, and 
the reconstitution of Army Group B was 
ordered to take effect on 15 January. 
Rommel's subordination to OKW was at 
this time canceled. 43 

His position, however, remained anom- 
alous: whereas he had less than full com- 
mand over the armies attached to him, he 
enjoyed an influence over the whole de- 
fense of the west which was in some 
measure commensurate with Rundstedt's. 
His orders provided that he was to be 
solely responsible for the conduct of 
operations (Kampffuehrung), but that in 
matters not directly affecting this tactical 
command OB WEST would continue to 
deal directly with the armies. Thus on 
questions of defense, training, organiza- 
tion and equipment, supply, artillery 
matters, communications, and engineer 
problems, the command channel might 
bypass the new army group. 44 Rommel 
continued to be the coastal inspector for 
the whole of the west, and although his 
reports henceforth were forwarded 
through OB WEST his ability to influ- 
ence coastal defense policies and practices 
did much to blur his subordination to 
Rundstedt. Moreover the binding of 
the Rommel staff to a geographical sec- 

42 Rad, 1 Jan 44, OKW/WFSt, Op. (H.), to OKH/- 
Gen.St.d.H., OB WEST, and Army Group B. OKH/- 
Org.Abt., Bd. Chefsache 7 -V .43-4 .11.44 . Commitment 
was specifically contemplated in Denmark and Hun- 
gary. In fact, neither contingency materialized. For 
Hungary operation see above, p. 234. 

43 Rad, 1 Jan 44, cited n. 42; Order, 12 Jan 44, 
OB WEST, (la Nr. 246/44). OKH/Op.Abt., Glied- 
erung West, Chefsachen, Band VIII, 2.Teil, 8.1.-21.- 
11.44. 

44 Order, 12 Jan 44, cited n. 43. 



GERMAN DEFENSE MEASURES, 1944 



247 



tor was only tentative; the headquarters 
was thought of still as a reserve command 
and as such the recommendations of its 
commander carried special if informal 
weight. 45 Finally, and most importantly, 
Rommel in common with all German 
field marshals enjoyed at all times the 
right of appeal directly to Hitler. 46 That 
privilege was especially important for the 
west because of the personalities in- 
volved. The evidence indicates that Rom- 
mel had an energy and strength of con- 
viction that often enabled him to secure 
Hitler's backing, whereas Rundstedt, 
who was disposed whenever possible to 
compromise and allow arguments to go 
by default, seems to have relaxed com- 
mand prerogatives that undoubtedly re- 
mained formally his. It is possible, of 
course, that he too came under Rommel's 
influence and failed to press acceptance 
of his own ideas because he was content 
to allow Rommel to assume the main 
burden of responsibility. In any case the 
clear fact is that after January 1944 Rom- 
mel was the dominant personality in the 
west with an influence disproportionate 
to his formal command authority. 

Rommel's position, however, was not 
unchallenged. In November 1943 Rund- 
stedt, thinking in terms of a large-scale 
counterattack against the main Allied 
landings, created a special staff to control 
armored units in that attack. The staff, 
designated Panzer Group West, was 
headed by General der Panzertruppen 
Leo Freiherr Geyr von Schweppenburg, 
and was directed to take over at once the 
formation and training of all armored 
units in the west and to advise the Com- 

45 OKW/WFSt, KTB Ausarbeitung, Der Westen, 
I.IV.-16.XIIJ4, cited hereafter as Der Westen. 
* 6 MS # CU)47 (Haider) . 



mander in Chief West in the employment 
of armor. Geyr was ordered to co-operate 
with and respect the wishes of army 
group commanders. 47 Actually, however, 
Geyr's ideas on the proper employment 
of armor were so completely at variance 
with Rommel's that co-operation was im- 
possible. 

In March 1944, at a meeting of the 
senior commanders in the west with 
Hitler, Rommel asked for an extension 
of his own authority that to all intents 
would have eliminated Geyr and Rund- 
stedt as well from effective command of 
the defense forces. Specifically he re- 
quested that all armored and motorized 
units and all GHQ artillery in the west 
be put directly under his command and 
that he also be given some control over 
the First and Nineteenth Armies. The 
latter two armies, defending the Atlantic 
and Mediterranean coasts of France re- 
spectively, were at this time still sub- 
ordinated immediately to OB WEST. 
In one sense, Rommel's request logically 
arose from his mission. Assigned respon- 
sibility for countering the major Allied 
invasion attempt, he required control 
over all the forces that might be used in 
the defense. It was plausible further- 
more that such control should be turned 
over to him before the battle so that he 
could properly prepare and dispose the 
troops to fight the kind of battle he 
would order. Making a strong bid to 
unify defense policies, he asked that the 
Humpty-Dumpty command in the west 
be put together again under him. Al- 
though the method of repair naturally 
did not please Rundstedt, his objections 

"Order, 19 Nov 43, OB WEST (la Nr. 681/43). 
Seventh Army, KTB Anlagen, Chefsachen 2.III.43- 
l.VIII.H; Order, 12 Jan 44, cited n. 43. 



248 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



were unheeded at the March meeting 
and Hitler approved the expansion of 
Rommel's command. Only after a study 
by the operations staff of OKW had sup- 
ported Rundstedt's later written protest 
did Hitler reverse himself. Even then the 
reversal was not complete. Three panzer 
divisions (the 2d, 21st, and 116th) were 
assigned to Rommel as Army Group B 
reserves, over which he was to have full 
tactical control while Geyr remained re- 
sponsible for their training and organiza- 
tion. 48 The patchwork solution solved 
nothing. 

At the same time four other panzer- 
type divisions in OB WEST's sector (the 
1st SS Panzer, 12th SS Panzer, 17th SS 
Panzer Grenadier, and Panzer Lehr) 
were set aside as a central mobile reserve 
under the direct command of OKW. The 
two decisions smacked of a compromise 
tending to preserve something of both 
Rommel's and Rundstedt's tactical 
ideas. 49 The main effect, however, was to 
deprive the Commander in Chief West 
of the means to influence the battle 
directly without transferring those means 
to Rommel. Thus, even such inclusive 
authority as was possible in the German 
military establishment was scrupulously 
withheld from both high commanders in 
the west. 

The final command change before the 
invasion was made in May when Rund- 
stedt ordered the formation of a second 



48 Der Westen. 

49 Rundstedt apparently considered the attach- 
ment of these reserves to OKW purely formal and 
made plans to use them under Geyr. Compare, how- 
ever, what happened on D Day (Ch. VIII) . Control 
of the three SS divisions had a triple twist: trained 
and organized under Panzer Group West, tactically 
subordinated to OKW, they were for administrative 
purposes under the SS-Fuehrungshauptamt. 



army group headquarters to take com- 
mand of the First and Nineteenth 
Armies. Army Group G, formed under 
Generaloberst Johannes Blaskowitz, took 
over, besides the two armies, the remain- 
ing three panzer divisions in France (the 
9th, 11th, and 2d SS). 50 The reorganiza- 
tion provided a counterbalance for Rom- 
mel and somewhat simplified the com- 
mand channels. It probably also ex- 
pressed final recognition of the imprac- 
ticability of the reserve high command 
concept. 

With the establishment of Blaskowitz's 
headquarters, Rundstedt undertook to 
define his own position. He outlined for 
himself what amounted to an over-all 
ground command in his theater, subject 
to the restrictions already discussed. He 
announced his intention of granting his 
army group commanders the maximum 
freedom of action in their own sectors. 
He would intervene only when he fun- 
damentally disagreed with their policies 
or when decisions had to be made affect- 
ing the theater as a whole. He promised 
to confine his directives to passing on 
Hitler's orders and to specifying policies 
that ought to be uniformly carried out 
by all commands. 51 

In fact, during the critical preparatory 
months of 1944, general directives were 
few either from Rundstedt or Hitler. 
Hitler, far away at his headquarters in 

50 OB WEST Grundlegender Bejehl Nr. 38, 7 May 
44. Blaskowitz's command was given inferior status 
as an Armeegruppe instead of the usual Heeres- 
gruppe, in part because of lack of personnel and 
perhaps also in part as a mark of the relative dis- 
favor in which Blaskowitz was held by Hitler. 
Oberkommando Armeegruppe G, KTB Nr. 1, 26.- 
IV.-30.V1.44; Per Westen; MS # T-121 (Zimmer- 
mann el al.) JSee Chart 2, P. 244.1 

51 OB WEST Grundlegender Bejehl Nr. 38, 7 May 
44. 



GERMAN DEFENSE MEASURES, 1944 



249 



East Prussia, was so preoccupied with the 
Russian war that he did not even visit 
the west until after the invasion. Further- 
more he seems not to have had any clear 
and consistent view of tactics himself, and 
his interventions in the western scene 
resulted more often in decisions of detail 
than in definitions of policy. The failure 
of Hitler to provide consistent guidance 
together with the vague demarcation of 
authority between Rommel and Rund- 
stedt left the west with a vacillating 
leadership. Defense preparations in 1944 
were increasingly scarred by compromise 
as the Commander in Chief West and the 
commander of Army Group B made de- 
tailed decisions in accordance with diver- 
gent aims. 

The perspective from which Rommel 
viewed his task derived in part from his 
experience with desert warfare in North 
Africa and in part from the circum- 
stances of his new assignment. It is im- 
portant to bear in mind that Rommel 
came to the west only at the point when 
the battle was about to be fought there, 
and that he was assigned responsibility 
specifically for the conduct of that bat- 
tle. He had not endured the long waiting 
period with its periodic alarms. He had 
not spent months making plans, calcu- 
lating actual but shifting deficiencies 
against ideal needs, outlining defense sys- 
tems and struggling to find the means to 
carry them out. The theoretical approach 
to tactics— the drafting of the abstractly 
best plan first, the search for resources 
second— was ruled out by the nature of 
his mission as well as by the limited time 
at his disposal. He was appointed coastal 
inspector and told to assess defensive 
capacities and make his plans accordingly. 
Whatever he chose to do had to be com- 



pleted in three or four months. He was 
bound therefore to start by examining 
his limitations. 

The experience in North Africa had 
convinced Rommel of the folly of trying 
to use massed armor as long as the enemy 
enjoyed air superiority. In Africa Rom- 
mel commanded some of the best trained 
and equipped troops that Germany pro- 
duced. In France he was to command an 
army that was already crippled in part by 
inadequate training, inferior human 
material, and lack of mobility. Further- 
more, there was still less hope in 1944 
than in 1942 that the Luftwaffe could 
challenge the supremacy of the Allies in 
the air. To Rommel that meant that 
mobile operations were impossible in fact 
however desirable they might be in 
theory. If the German Army could not 
hope to maneuver on anything like terms 
of equality with the Allies, its only 
chance for a defensive success was to fight 
from the strongest possible natural posi- 
tions. The pillboxes, entrenchments, 
wire, and mines of the Atlantic Wall and 
the waters of the Channel, in short, 
seemed to Rommel to offer not only the 
best but the only means to offset Allied 
superiority in mass and mobility. 52 

Rommel therefore was led to place an 
exclusive dependence on fortifications 
that Rundstedt never advocated and that 
even Hitler had not contemplated in his 
directive of November. The battle for 
the west, Rommel believed, would be de- 
cided at the water's edge, and the decision 
would come literally within the first 
forty-eight hours of the Allied landings. 53 
In accord with that diagnosis, his first 
aim was to create a defensive belt around 

62 MS # A-982 (Ruge) . 
« Ibid. 



250 



CROSS CHANNEL ATTACK 



the entire coast (with special concentra- 
tion on the Fifteenth Army sector) ex- 
tending five or six kilometers inland. 
Within this belt all infantry, artillery, 
headquarters staffs, and reserves up to 
division level were to be located in a 
series of resistance nests. 54 Between the 
resistance nests mines and obstacles were 
to be laid so thickly as to prevent enemy 
penetration. Because of limited time, 
labor, and materials, Rommel concen- 
trated on many simple, field-type defenses 
rather than on a few complex fortifica- 
tions. He stressed in particular the lay- 
ing of mines. He introduced, further, a 
defense device new to the Atlantic Wall: 
underwater obstacles designed to wreck 
landing craft. 55 In Normandy, hedgehogs 
and tetrahedra located inland as tank 
obstacles were moved to the beaches 
suitable for enemy landings. They were 
supplemented by Belgian Gates and 
stakes slanting seaward. The intention 
was to cover every possible landing beach 
between high- and low-water marks with 
obstacles staggered to leave no free chan- 
nel for even a flat-bottomed boat to reach 
shore. Obstacles as far as possible were 
to be mined. As it was considered most 
likely that the Allies would land at flood 
tide to reduce the amount of open beach 
to be crossed under fire, laying of the ob- 
stacles began at the high-water line and 
was extended in belts seaward as mate- 
rials and labor became available. 56 
To complete his hedgehog fortress, 



54 See below, Ch. VIII, n. 68, for a description of 
various types of German fortifications. 

55 MS # A-982 (Ruge) . Underwater obstacles of 
this type were first used in 1943 by the Germans in 
the west, when preparing the defense of the Danish 
coast against an attack from the sea. For description 
of obstacles mentioned in the text, see Glossary. 

66 MS # A-982 (Ruge) . 



Rommel undertook to stake all fields 
suitable for glider landings behind the 
coastal zone. The stakes were to be 
placed close enough together so that 
gliders could not come down between 
them. They, too, were to be mined. The 
German estimate was that Allied air- 
borne troops would be used in diver- 
sionary and subsidiary operations, for 
which Brittany and Normandy were con- 
sidered the most likely target areas. Rom- 
mel therefore concentrated the erection 
of antiairlanding obstacles in these 
areas. 57 

The general scheme of obstacle defense 
of the Continent was further to be ex- 
tended by mine fields in the Channel. 
Sixteen fields, each about five miles long, 
were put down in the Channel between 
Boulogne and Cherbourg from August 
1943 to January 1944. These were to be 
kept renewed as far as possible, but it 
was not believed that they would have 
much effect on Allied shipping. They 
were therefore to be supplemented by 
hasty mine fields laid down by all avail- 
able vessels immediately before the inva- 
sion was expected. These fields would be 
planted without keeping open any 
marked lanes for German vessels. From 
Zeebrugge to Granville thirty-six mine 
fields were planned. It was also planned, 
when invasion seemed imminent, to sow 
mines from the air in British harbors. 
Finally along the French coast shallow- 
water mines were to be laid and a special 
seventy-kilogram concrete mine was de- 
veloped for the purpose. 58 In all these 



07 Bericht ueber die Reise des Herrn Oberbefehls- 
habers am 17. und IS. Mai 44. Seventh Army, KTB 
Anlagen 1 .1.-30.VI.44. 

68 ONI, Fuehrer Conferences, 1944; Marinegrup- 
penkommando West, KTB 16.1.-31 .1.44 . 



252 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



ways Rommel sought to make the ex- 
pected invasion physically impossible. 
The Allied force entangled in the spider 
web of obstacles would be given the 
paralyzing sting by the German Army 
waiting at the water's edge. 

Rommel's construction and mine-lay- 
ing program called for a very large ex- 
penditure of labor, and labor was scarce. 
It has already been pointed out that 
Organization Todt was employed chiefly 
in the major port fortress areas, on V- 
weapon sites, and, in the spring of 1944, 
on railroad maintenance. In the appor- 
tionment of the remaining labor supply 
among the armies, Fifteenth Army con- 
tinued to receive priority. Seventh Army 
thus had special difficulty in completing 
its defense works. The LXXXIV Corps 
was assigned three engineer battalions in 
January, two for fortress building and 
one for mine laying. In addition, 2,850 
men of the former French Labor Service 
were set to work on a secondary defense 
line immediately behind the belt of 
coastal resistance points. Pleas for more 
construction hands were answered by at- 
tachment of two Ost battalions. 59 

The only other available labor source 
was the combat troops. Increasingly dur- 
ing 1944 infantrymen were employed in 
work details on the Atlantic Wall with 
consequent serious reduction of combat 
training. The reserve battalion of the 
709th Division, for instance, devoted 
three days a week exclusively to labor 
duty. The time for training in the rest 
of the week was further reduced by 
transport and guard details. During the 
first two weeks in May the battalion was 
employed full time on the coastal defense 

69 Seventh Army, KTB 1.I.-30.V1.44, 5, 6, 8, and 
16 Jan 44. 



in the Barfleur sector. 60 The 709th was 
an old division, but its personnel con- 
stantly shifted. The lack of continuous 
adequate training meant that the total 
combat fitness of the division steadily 
deteriorated through the accretion of un- 
trained recruits. 

Still worse was the effect on the new 
and reorganized divisions that repre- 
sented a large proportion of the German 
striking force in the west. In Seventh 
Army all but one of the nonstatic infantry 
divisions were organized during 1944. 
New divisions accounted for six of the 
fourteen divisions under the army's com- 
mand. All of these units were burdened 
with construction duties. In February 
Rommel ordered that infantry be used 
to lay mines and obstacles. On 25 May 
Seventh Army reported to OKH that all 
its units were engaged in construction 
projects and that consequently the neces- 
sary training was not being carried out. 61 

The only units specially exempted 
from work on the fortifications were the 
two parachute divisions. The 3d Para- 
chute Division was brought into Brittany 
in March and stationed east of Brest. Its 
mission was to complete its organization 
and at the same time train for defense 
against airborne attack. The 5 th Para- 
chute Division moved into the Rennes 
area between 5 and 14 May with a sim- 
ilar mission. Both divisions in May were 
put under command of the // Parachute 
Corps which, though subordinated tac- 
tically to Seventh Army, was administra- 
tively and for training purposes under 
the Third Air Force. Since the Luftwaffe 
was thus responsible for parachute unit 

60 Hoffmann Report. Seventh Army, KTB Anlagen 
1.I.-30.VI.44. 

61 Seventh Army, KTB 1 .1.-30.VI.44, 25 May 44. 



GERMAN DEFENSE MEASURES, 1944 



253 



training and, on the other hand, was not 
responsible to army commands anywhere 
in the hierarchy, Reich Marshal Goering 
ordered that the parachute divisions not 
be used for construction work except in 
providing local security for themselves 
against airborne attack. 62 The 5th Para- 
chute Division had scarcely more than 
begun to fill out its ranks when invasion 
struck; but the 3d proved one of the best 
prepared of the new units in Seventh 
Army. 

The general stinting of training under 
the circumstances seems to have been in- 
evitable and apparently did not arouse 
any serious protests at the time.* 3 Where 
Rommel's program met really effective 
opposition was in his efforts to concen- 
trate reserves within the coastal zone. If 
it was true that the Germans had to 
fight on a fortified line, if they could not 
hope to maneuver freely, and if the crisis 
of the battle against the invaders would 
come within the first forty-eight hours, 
then it followed that all forces would be 
wasted which were not near enough to 
the coast to be committed at once against 
the first landings. This deduction was 
the final extension of the doctrine of 
static defense implicit in the original 
decision to build the Atlantic Wall. At 
least one high German commander had 
predicted the development and had 
warned against it in caustic tones. Soden- 
stern, commanding the Nineteenth Army, 
wrote privately in the summer of 1943 of 
his fear that German generalship would 

^lbid., 20 Feb 44. 

63 Various commanders since the war have under- 
scored this lack of training as one of the most seri- 
ous weaknesses of the defense. The evidence, how- 
ever, is inconclusive. See MS # B-234 (Pemsel) ; MS 
# B-466 (Geyr) ; MS # B-784 (Oberstleutnant 
Friedrich von Criegern, CofS LXXX1V Corps) . 



exhaust itself in the construction of huge 
masses of concrete. "As no man in his 
senses," he argued, "would put his head 
on an anvil over which the smith's ham- 
mer is swung, so no general should mass 
his troops at the point where the enemy 
is certain to bring the first powerful blow 
of his superior materiel." 64 Rommel's 
answer, in all likelihood, would have 
been, first, that there was no practical 
alternative, second, that the first Allied 
blow at the point of the landings would 
not be the most powerful but the weakest 
since only a small portion of Allied fire 
power could then be effective, and, third, 
that the German general in massing his 
troops in fortified positions was at least 
giving their heads some protection 
against the smith's hammer. 

The difference of opinion was essen- 
tially a difference in judgment of what 
was possible. Rommel's chief of staff 
has testified that Rommel would have 
preferred a battle of maneuver had he 
seen any chance of its succeeding. 65 Rund- 
stedt, like Sodenstern, was clearly more 
optimistic, perhaps because he had not 
had firsthand experience with the air 
power of the Western Allies. In any case, 
he did not accept Rommel's thesis and 
the influence of OB WEST was exerted 
spasmodically in resisting Rommel's ef- 
forts to shift the weight of the army for- 
ward to the coast, and in trying instead 
to free as many units as possible from 
bondage to the rigid defense system. 

In practice any plan to introduce flexi- 
bility into the defense depended pri- 
marily on whether units could be made 



84 Notes written in August 1943, appended to MS 
# B-276 (Sodenstern) . 
65 MSS # B-720 and # C-017 (Speidel). 



254 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



mobile and whether they could be or- 
ganized and equipped to support them- 
selves in combat. Through the early 
months of 1944 Rundstedt struggled to 
strengthen and provide some transport 
for the coastal divisions. In the Seventh 
Army area he succeeded in forming mo- 
bile Kampfgruppen (of reinforced regi- 
ments) from four of the infantry divi- 
sions (the 265th, 266th, 275th, and 353d) 
defending the Brittany coast. In case of 
a major invasion of Normandy, Seventh 
Army had plans to move these Kampf- 
gruppen into the combat zone. In the 
Cotentin, the 243d Division was con- 
verted from a static into a nominal at- 
tack infantry division. 66 It was reorgan- 
ized according to the 1944 type with 
six infantry battalions. Four battalions 
were to be equipped with bicycles. The 
artillery regiment, supply troops, and 
antitank battalion were to be motorized. 
Reorganization took place in late 1943, 
but the motorization planned to begin 
in May 1944 could be carried out only in 
very limited degree. 67 

It should be observed in this connec- 
tion that German notions of mobility in 
the west in 1944 hardly corresponded to 
American concepts of a motorized army. 
A mobile infantry unit in general was 
one equipped with bicycles, with horse- 
drawn artillery, and a modicum of horse 
and motor transport for supply purposes. 
It was called mobile more because of its 
ability to maintain itself in the field than 



66 The Germans classified divisions in four categor- 
ies, depending on whether they were capable of full 
attack, limited attack, full defense, or limited defense 
missions. In these categories the degree of mobility 
was one of the most important factors. All static di- 
visions were in the third or fourth categories. 

67 Karteiblatt, 243d Infantry Division. OKH/Org.- 
Abt., Karteiblaetter 1943-1945. 



because of its ability to move rapidly 
from one place to another. 

For the most part the Germans lacked 
resources even to provide that limited 
mobility for the west army. Rundstedt's 
efforts to restore mobility to his static 
divisions on the whole failed. A begin- 
ning, for instance, was made to upgrade 
the 709th Division, but the vehicles al- 
lotted in March had to be withdrawn in 
May when, as a result of the Allies' suc- 
cessful rail bombing attacks, Seventh 
Army began to scrape together every- 
thing on wheels to form corps transport 
companies. 68 

Rundstedt's efforts to put wheels un- 
der his army were at least partly offset 
by Rommel's concurrent labors to dig in 
every available soldier and gun along the 
coast line. After an inspection trip in 
the LXXXIV Corps sector in February, 
Rommel concluded that reserves were 
held in too great strength too far from the 
coast. In particular, he felt that the 352d 
Division, located near St. L6, and the 
243d Division, near la Haye du Puits, 
should be regrouped so that they could 
be committed in the first hours after an 
enemy landing. Seventh Army therefore 
ordered that the divisional reserves of 
the 709th and 716th Divisions (the 795th 
Georgian Battalion and 642d Ost Bat- 
talion respectively) should be committed 
at the coast, that the 243d and 352d Divi- 
sions should move slightly northward, 69 
and that the 352d Artillery Regiment of 
the latter division should be emplaced in 
the coastal zone under the control of the 



68 Hoffmann Report. Seventh Army, KTB Anlagen 
1.1.-30.V1.44. 

69 New assembly areas were: for the 243d Division, 
Carentan-Montebourg-Bricquebec-Lessay; for the 
352d Division, Bayeux-Trevieres-Isigny-St. L6. 



GERMAN DEFENSE MEASURES, 1944 



257 



716th Division. 10 Similar reshuffling in 
Brittany put the artillery of the 275th and 
353d Divisions into static defense posi- 
tions. 71 The shift forward of the 352d Di- 
vision meant in effect that it was no longer 
in reserve. On 14 March Seventh Army 
therefore proposed that the division ac- 
tually take over responsibility for the left 
half of the 716th Division sector. On OB 
WEST's approval, this change was accom- 
plished by 19 March. With the doubling 
of the troops on the coast, the former bat- 
talion sectors of the 716th Division be- 
came regimental sectors. The 726th Regi- 
ment of the 716th was attached to the 
352d, less the 2d Battalion which became 
division reserve for the 716th. One regi- 
ment of the 352d plus the Fuesilier Bat- 
talion was held in corps reserve in the vi- 
cinity of Bayeux. 72 

Hitler, whose ideas, possibly under 
Rommel's influence, had undergone some 
change since Directive 51, wondered at 
this time whether all units of limited mo- 
bility which were located immediately be- 
hind the coast should not as a matter of 
policy be incorporated in the main line 
of resistance (MLR), leaving only fully 
mobile forces as attack reserves. General 
Jodl of the OKW pointed out that, ex- 
cept for three divisions, units were al- 
ready far enough forward for their artil- 

70 Two battalions of the 352d Artillery Regiment 
were already ordered committed on the coast on 26 
January 1944. See Seventh Army, KTB 1 .1.-30.VI.44, 
26 Jan 44. 

71 The 353d Division was the sister division of the 
352d, formed at the same time and according to the 
same tables of organization. As an attack infantry 
division, it was scheduled for full offensive employ- 
ment. The 275th Division, a static division, upgraded 
in part, would give up a mobile Kampfgruppe if 
needed for employment outside Brittany. 

72 Seventh Army, KTB 1.I.-30.VI.44, 14, 19 Mar 
44. The reserve regiment was rotated. After 20 May, 
it was the 915th. 



lery to bear on the invasion beaches. To 
shift all troops into the coastal fortifica- 
tions would be dangerous since concrete 
shelters were limited and field work 
might be destroyed by Allied bombing. 
In Brittany and the Cotentin, moreover, 
it was necessary to preserve some depth of 
defense in order to resist probable air- 
borne landings. 73 

Commitment of all forces at the MLR 
was thus not accepted as a principle. But 
in practice Rommel continued to shift 
the weight of his army forward. In April 
the 21st Panzer Division was moved from 
Rennes to Caen where its battalions were 
split on either side of the Orne River and 
its artillery committed on the coast. The 
disposition to all intents removed the 21st 
Panzer Division as a unit from the pool of 
mobile reserves. 74 The other two panzer 
divisions directly under Rommel's com- 
mand were placed in position to reinforce 
the Fifteenth Army, one between Rouen 
and Paris, the other near Amiens. In May, 
another inspection tour convinced Rom- 
mel that movement of units from right to 
left into the invasion area would be im- 
possible. He therefore requested that the 
four divisions in OKW reserve be assem- 
bled nearer the coast. Rundstedt entered 
an immediate protest with OKW, con- 
tending that the move was tantamount to 
committing the reserves before the battle. 
OKW agreed, and Rommel's proposal 
was turned down. 75 



73 Der Westen. 

74 The 21st Panzer Division replaced the 77th Di- 
vision in the Caen area. The 77th was shifted to St. 
Malo-St. Brieuc where in turn it replaced the 346th 
Division. The 346th had been taken out of static 
coastal defense positions in the latter part of 1943, 
made mobile, and in January 1944 transferred to 
Fifteenth Army. 

76 Der Westen. 



258 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



These four divisions (three panzer and 
one panzer grenadier) thus saved by 
OKW's intervention were the only mo- 
bile units in the west on the eve of inva- 
sion which could properly be designated 
strategic reserves. Three were located 
within easy marching distance of Nor- 
mandy (easy, that is, if the Allied air 
forces were discounted); the fourth was 
far away on the Belgium— Netherlands 
border. 

In summary, the conflict between Rom- 
mel's and Rundstedt's theories of defense 
was never resolved definitely in favor of 
one or the other and led to compromise 
troop dispositions which on D Day were 
not suitable for the practice of either 
theory. The pool of mobile reserves had 
been cut down below what would be 
needed for an effective counterattack in 
mass; it had been removed from OB 
WEST's control, and, as though to insure 
finally that it would not be employed in 
force, it had been divided among three 
commands. While the possibility of seek- 
ing a decision by counterattack had thus 
been whittled away, considerable forces 
were still held far enough from the coast 
so that, if Rommel's theories were correct, 
they would be unable to reach the battle- 
field in time to influence the action. In 
short, operational flexibility had been 
curtailed without achieving a decisive 
thickening of the coastal defense. 

The Defense on the Eve of Invasion 

The scheduled completion date for the 
winter construction program and all 
troop preparations for meeting the ex- 
pected invasion was 30 April. 76 Up to that 

76 Grundlegender Befehl des Oberbefehlshabers 
West Nr. 13, Neuregelung des Bauwesens in den 



time the Germans made all arrangements 
to repel a major attack against the Kanal- 
kueste. At the end of 1943 Hitler ordered 
the assembly of all available forces behind 
the front of the Fifteenth Army and the 
right wing of Seventh Army, but the latter 
sector was to be considered much less in 
peril. OB WEST was to release four divi- 
sions from coastal sectors of the Seventh, 
First, and Nineteenth Armies. Of these, 
the 243d Division, released from Seventh 
Army, was to remain as a reserve division 
in the army area. The other three were all 
attached to Fifteenth Army. Similarly, of 
four reinforced regiments obtained at this 
time from the Replacement Army, three 
went to Fifteenth Army; one was attached 
to the 709th Division. The latter attach- 
ment was made because the coastal de- 
fenses of the 709th Division were thin and 
enemy attack there was "possible." 77 

That possibility, however, was not 
taken very seriously until the end of 
April. Since the German intelligence 
system had been supplying very little re- 
liable information, estimates of Allied in- 
tentions continued to be based more on 
logical inference than on fact. Air recon- 
naissance was severely restricted by Allied 
air supremacy. Reconnaissance by sea 
could never be depended on. German 
agents in England steadily dwindled and 
the work of those remaining was made al- 
most fruitless by the closing off of the 
English coastal areas in April 1944. News 
filtering through neutral countries, espe- 
cially from Portugal and Switzerland, was 
abundant but confusing. 78 The difficulty 

besetzten Westgebieten, 3 Nov 43. OKW/WFSt, Op. 
(H.), Grundlegende Befehle West 28. IV .42-1 .V .44 . 

77 OKH/Op.Abt., Gliederung West, Chefsachen, 
Band VIII, l.Teil, 11. XII. 42-2. 1. 44, and 2.Teil, 81.- 
2111.44. 

78 MS # B-234 (Pemsel) . 



GERMAN DEFENSE MEASURES, 1944 



259 



was not that no reliable reports got 
through, but that they were too few and 
too spasmodic to allow the formation of 
a convincing picture of Allied intentions, 
particularly since such a picture had to 
compete for acceptance with various pre- 
conceptions. 

The best guess was Hitler's, though 
how he arrived at it the records do not 
show. While military leaders were nearly 
unanimous in predicting invasion in the 
Pas-de-Calais area, Hitler in March sud- 
denly decided that the Allies were likely 
to land on the Cotentin and Brittany 
peninsulas. He believed they would be 
tempted by the ease with which defen- 
sible bridgeheads could be established 
there, but he apparently did not under- 
take any analysis of the possible military 
advantages. 79 

The supposition of a special threat to 
Normandy and Brittany received some 
support a few weeks later from the Navy. 
On 26 April Admiral Krancke, Com- 
mander of Navy Group West, observed 
that recent air photographs showed no ac- 
tivity in the ports of southeast England or 
the mouth of the Thames, and concluded 
that Cap Gris Nez and the coast northeast 
were not threatened by Allied landings. 
The conclusion was reinforced by the 
facts that Allied air attacks against coastal 



"> a Seekriegsleitung/l.Abt., KTB 1.-31.111.44, 4 Mar 
44, and KTB 1.-31.V.44, 3 May 44; Der Westen. 
German generals, commenting after the war on their 
experiences, were unanimous in giving Hitler the 
credit for first pointing to the danger of invasion in 
Normandy. In the light of the German Army's gen- 
eral reluctance to admit that Hitler had shown any 
military perspicacity at all, the testimony is fairly 
convincing. The generals, who were then unable to 
see the military advantages of a Cotentin assault as 
compared to an attack against the Kanalkueste, al- 
leged that Hitler's choice was sheer intuition. The 
records at least do not contradict that interpretation. 



batteries and radar installations were con- 
centrated between Boulogne and Cher- 
bourg, that Allied mine sweeping and 
mine laying generally blocked off the 
same area, and that the bombing of rail- 
roads had interrupted traffic to the Chan- 
nel coast but had not affected communica- 
tions with the Atlantic area. In short, Ad- 
miral Krancke felt that all signs pointed 
to an invasion between Boulogne and 
Cherbourg, probably with the main effort 
against the Cotentin, the mouth of the 
Seine, or the mouth of the Somme. 80 This 
appreciation differed from previous esti- 
mates only in lopping off the Pas-de- 
Calais sector between Boulogne and Dun- 
kerque as a possible landing area. The re- 
sulting difference in emphasis, however, 
was striking, particularly in the singling 
out of the Cotentin as threatened by a pos- 
sible major attack. Later reports by Ad- 
miral Krancke further emphasized this 
threat, particularly from Allied airborne 
attack. 81 Krancke's view, developed chiefly 
during May, was that Le Havre and Cher- 
bourg seemed likely prime objectives for 
the Allied invasion forces. This convic- 
tion grew as it was seen that Cherbourg 
and Le Havre alone of the major French 
ports had been spared from heavy air at- 
tack. 

Whether Hitler saw and reacted to 
these naval estimates or whether he had 
access to other information, in late April 
his interest in Normandy increased and 
he began to insist strongly on the need to 
reinforce the defense there. 82 On 6 May 

80 Marinegruppenkommando West, KTB 16.-30.- 
IV. 44, 26 Apr 44; cf. in same KTB Lageuebersicht des 
Marinegruppenkommandos West, Fuehrungsstab, 
Rueckblick Monat April 1944. 

81 Seehriegsleitung/l.Abt., KTB 1.-31.V.44, 15 May 
44. 

82 Der Westen. 



260 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



Seventh Army was notified by Rommel of 
Hitler's concern, and the army ordered 
the deployment of one parachute regi- 
ment and two separate battalions in the 
immediate vicinity of Cherbourg. The 
parachute regiment selected was the 6th 
and it was to be placed in the general 
area of Lessay-Periers. The 206th Panzer 
Battalion, a separate tank battalion 
equipped with a miscellany of Russian, 
French, and German light tanks, was or- 
dered to dig in between Cap de la Hague 
and Cap de Carteret. The Seventh Army 
Sturm Battalion was sent to la Haye du 
Puits and later shifted to le Vast, south- 
east of Cherbourg. Decision was made at 
the same time to divert to the Cotentin 
the 91st Division, which was then on its 
way from Germany to Nantes. Orders 
were issued the next day switching the 
trains to the vicinity of la Haye du Puits. 
The 91st Division was told that on arrival 
it would take over command of the 6th 
Parachute Regiment. This movement 
was completed on 14 May. On 9 May 
Rommel ordered that the 101st Stellungs- 
werfer Regiment, released from OB 
WEST reserve, be committed in the Co- 
tentin, split between the east and west 
coasts. On the day that this move was com- 
pleted, 12 May, the 17th Machine Gun 
Battalion (a well-trained unit of young 
men) also completed relief of the 795th 
Georgian Battalion on Cap de la Hague 
and the latter battalion, under command 
of the 709th Division, was moved on 17 
May south to Brucheville northeast of 
Carentan. Mission of all the major units, 
the 91st Division, 6th Parachute Regi- 
ment, and Seventh Army Sturm Battalion, 
was defense against airborne landings. 
The 100th Panzer Replacement Battalion 



south of Carentan at the same time was 
instructed to be prepared for action 
against airborne troops. 83 

The Cotentin was thus substantially 
reinforced and fully alerted a month be- 
fore the two U.S. airborne divisions were 
dropped there. While expecting airborne 
assault on the Cotentin, however, neither 
Rommel nor Rundstedt reckoned that 
such assault would form part of the main 
Allied effort. Having reinforced the ac- 
tual garrison in the peninsula, therefore, 
they took no further steps to cope with a 
major landing in the area. On the con- 
trary, a Seventh Army proposal on 5 May 
to shift the whole of the LXXIV Corps 
from Brittany to Normandy in case of 
large-scale landings in the LXXXIV 
Corps sector was rejected by Field Mar- 
shal Rommel. 84 No reserves were moved 
nearer the Cotentin, and no plans were 
made to move them in mass in case of at- 
tack. 

As for the Navy, having called its op- 
ponent's trumps it relaxed under the 
curious delusion that the Allies might not 
play at all. Krancke's thesis seems to have 
been that unless the invasion were pre- 
ceded by large and devastating attacks on 

83 Seventh Army, KTB 1. 1.-30. VI. 4 4 , 6, 7, 9, 12 
May 44; Seventh Army, Trans.O., KTB 1 .I.-30.VI .44 ', 
8 May 44, and Anlage 15. The Sturm Battalion was 
an irregular Army unit for shock employment. It 
contained about 1,100 men in four companies armed 
as infantry and had four light field howitzers. The 
101st Stellungswerfer Regiment was organized in the 
west in January 1944. It consisted of three mobile 
rocket launcher battalions armed either with 210- 
mm. rocket launchers or 280-mm./320-mm. launch- 
ers. The 100th Panzer Replacement Battalion, equip- 
ped with a handful of French and Russian light 
tanks, had very slight combat value. Half of the 
243d Division which occupied inland ports was also 
charged with antiairborne defense. See MS # B-845 
(Schlieben) . 

84 Seventh Army KTB 1.I.-30.VI.44, 2, 5, May 44. 



GERMAN DEFENSE MEASURES, 1944 



261 



the coastal batteries it could not succeed. 85 
He noted on 3 1 May that such attacks had 
indeed increased, but they were, he 
thought, still too limited to insure the suc- 
cess of landings. Actually, from his point 
of view, he was right. Despite his prognos- 
tications about the threat to the Cotentin 
he continued to believe that large-scale 
landings would strike the Pas-de-Calais. 
Here the coastal batteries were formida- 
ble. The Allied air attacks had hit them 
more often than they had hit any other 
sector of the coast, and yet the attacks up 
to the eve of D Day had eliminated only 
eight guns. In the Seine-Somme sector 
five had been destroyed, and three in Nor- 
mandy. 88 The Navy thus remained con- 
fident that its artillery could still knock 
the Allied invasion fleet out of the water 
—provided of course it sailed where it was 
expected. That confidence was further 
nourished by the fact that, despite heavy 
air attacks on radar stations, the radar 
warning system remained virtually intact 
as of 31 May. In fine, reviewing the situa- 
tion on 4 June Admiral Krancke was 
driven to the conclusion that not only was 
attack not imminent but there was a good 
chance that observed Allied preparations 
were part of a huge hoax. The mixture of 
bluff and preparation for a later invasion 
would keep up, the naval chief thought, 
until German forces were so weakened in 



85 Marinegruppenkommando West, KTB 16.-31.- 
V.44, 22 May 44. 

86 Rpt, 12 Jun 44, Admiral Kanalkueste. Seekriegs- 
leitungll.AU., KTB Anlagen 1.-30.VI.44. This, how- 
ever, does not take into account total interference 
with the effectiveness of the coastal batteries through 
destruction of communications and damage to auxili- 
ary facilities. Air attacks in Seventh Army area at 
least were a serious enough threat to uncasemated 
batteries that General Dollmann ordered alternate 
and dummy positions prepared. 



the west that landings could be attempted 
without great risk. 87 

The contrast between Krancke's opti- 
mism about enemy intentions and his 
sober accounting of the helplessness of 
his own forces in the face of enemy over- 
whelming superiority was the most strik- 
ing aspect of his last report before the in- 
vasion. His fleet of combat ships was so 
small that it could scarcely be talked 
about in terms of a naval force and even 
what he did have was for the most part 
bottled up in the ports by what he called 
"regular and almost incessant" Allied air 
sorties. His main offensive units in June 
were a flotilla of destroyers (which on 1 
April had two ships operational), 88 two 
torpedo boats, 89 and five flotillas of small 
motor torpedo boats (S-Boote) with thirty- 
one boats operational. In addition he had 
a few mine sweepers and patrol craft. Fif- 
teen of the smaller submarines based in 
French Atlantic ports, though not under 
Krancke's control, were scheduled to take 
part in resisting the invasion. Midget sub- 
marines and remote-controlled torpedoes 
were being developed but they never got 
into the fight. 90 Even this tiny fleet could 
not operate. Krancke reported thirty Al- 
lied air attacks on his naval forces during 

87 Lageuebersicht des Marinegruppenkommandos 
West, Fuehrungsstab, Rueckblick Monat Mai 1944 in 
Marinegruppenkommando West, KTB 16.-31.V.44, 
cited hereafter as Navy Group West, Rueckblick 
Monat Mai 1944. Blumentritt, CofS, OB WEST, also 
believed the invasion would not come. See MS # 
T-121 (Zimmermann et al.) . 

88 Figures not available for a later date. In any 
case, however, the destroyers were not used against 
the invasion fleet in the landings. 

89 He had seven on 1 April, lost three in a brush 
with Allied destroyers in April and two more in May. 
Marinegruppenkommando West, KTB 1.-15.1V.44, 
KTB 16.-30.IV.44, KTB 1.-15.V.44, and KTB 16.- 
31.V.44. 

90 Conf, 29 Jun 44, ONI, Fuehrer Conferences, 1944. 



262 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



May and added that even in dark nights 
his units got no relief. He predicted an 
enforced reduction of effort and heavy 
losses in the future. 91 In the meantime he 
found himself unable to carry out his plan 
for blocking off the invasion coast with 
mine fields. Delivery of all types of mines 
had been delayed chiefly by transporta- 
tion difficulties. Up to the end of April 
there were on hand only enough concrete 
shallow-water mines to put in two mine 
fields in the Dieppe area. 

In May, more mines became available. 
But in the meantime the mine-laying fleet 
had been depleted by Allied attacks, and 
increased Allied air surveillance of the 
sea lanes made all German naval activity 
difficult. 

The anticipated mining operations 
[Kranke reported on 4 June] to renew the 
flanking mine fields in the Channel have not 
been carried out. On the way to the rendez- 
vous at Le Havre T-24 fell behind because 
of damage from [a] mine, "Greif" was sunk 
by bombs, "Kondor" and "Falke" were dam- 
aged by mines, the former seriously. The 6th 
MS-Flotilla [mine layers] likewise on its 
way to Le Havre to carry out KMA [coastal 
mine] operations reached port with only one 
of its six boats, one having been sunk by 
torpedoes and the other four having fallen 
out through mine damage, air attack or sea 
damage. The laying of KMA mines out of 
Le Havre therefore could not be carried 
out. 92 

In fact during the month only three 
more coastal mine fields could be laid and 
all these were put down off the Kanal- 
kueste. The essential mining of waters 
around the Cotentin could scarcely be 
begun. Naval defense preparations were 

91 Navy Group West, Rueckblick Monat Mai 1944. 

92 Ibid. All ships mentioned in the report were 
torpedo boats. 



actually losing ground. The program of 
replacing the 1943 mine fields in mid- 
Channel finally had to be abandoned in 
March 1 944 because of lack of mines and 
because of Allied radar observation. 
Krancke estimated that the deepwater 
fields would all be obsolete by mid-June. 
Some hasty mine fields were laid in the 
Bay of the Seine during April but their 
estimated effective life was only five 
weeks. The dearth of materials and ade- 
quate mine layers continued to disrupt 
German plans. Krancke's conclusion on 
the eve of invasion was that mining ac- 
tivity of E-boats could only provide a 
"nonessential" contribution to the Ger- 
man defenses. 93 

If Admiral Krancke's forces were help- 
less in naval action, they were scarcely 
more effective on land, where their as- 
signed task of casemating coastal batteries 
dragged along past the completion date 
with no end in sight. Hitler had ordered 
in January that all batteries and antitank 
guns were to be casemated by 30 April. 94 
On that date Admiral Krancke reported 
that of 547 coastal guns 299 had been case- 
mated, 145 were under construction; re- 
maining concrete works had not been 
begun. Like all other defense prepara- 
tions, this effort had been concentrated 
along the Kanalkuesie. In the Pas-de- 
Calais and Seine-Somme sectors, 93 of the 
132 guns had been casemated. Normandy 
had 47 guns, 27 of which were under con- 
crete at the end of April. As for the fixed 
antitank positions, 16 of the 82 guns had 

93 Navy Group West, Rueckblick Monat Mai 1944. 
Mines swept by the Allies during the crossing on 6 
June were presumably among those counted obsolete 
by the Germans. Some fresh mines were laid in the 
assault area during the night of 6-7 June. See MS 
# D-333 (Krancke) and MS # D-334 (Ruge) . 

9i Seventh Army, KTB 1.1. -30. VI. 44, 17 Jan 44. 



GERMAN DEFENSE MEASURES, 1944 



263 



been covered in the Fifteenth Army area. 
The nine guns in the Seventh A rmy sector 
were all open. 95 

The Army's construction program, of 
course, suffered along with the Navy's and 
was far from completion on D Day. Short- 
age of materials, particularly cement and 
mines, due both to production and to 
transportation difficulties affected all for- 
tification work. The shortage of cement, 
critical even at the outset of the winter 
construction program, was greatly inten- 
sified by the Allies' all-out rail bombing 
offensive. Late in May LXXXIV Corps, 
for example, received 47 carloads of ce- 
ment in three days against a minimum 
daily need of 240 carloads. Two days after 
this report was made, the flow of cement 
to the Seventh Army area stopped alto- 
gether as trains had to be diverted to 
carrying more urgently needed ordinary 
freight. During May the cement works in 
Cherbourg were forced to shut down for 
lack of coal. Plans were then made to 
bring up cement by canal to Rouen and 
ship by sea to the Seventh Army area, but 
this was a last-minute solution and could 
never be tried out. 98 

On 15 May Seventh Army reported that 
its defense preparations were to be con- 
sidered complete, its beach obstacles and 
antiairlanding obstacles set, and its troop 
dispositions made. This was, to say the 
least, an exaggeration, analagous to a 
claim that a bombing program was com- 
plete as soon as all targets had been hit. 
In fact, a week later LXXXIV Corps esti- 
mated that the construction program was 

95 Status Report, Stand der V erschartungen, Stich- 
tag 30.iy.44, in Marinegruppenkommando West, 
KTB 16.-30.IV.44. 

96 Seventh Army, Trans.O., KTB 1.I.-30.VI.44, 25, 
28 May 44, and Anlage 8; Seventh Army KTB 1J.- 
30.VI.44, 23 May 44. 



only half complete. 97 The corps was par- 
ticularly concerned that not even the 
fortification of the immediate MLR along 
the water's edge nor the naval and army 
coastal batteries were finished. The so- 
called Zweite Stellung, which Rundstedt 
in late 1943 ordered to be built a few 
kilometers in from the coast line in order 
to get some depth of defense, had pro- 
gressed still more slowly, even though, be- 
ing largely a system of prepared field po- 
sitions constructed by the French, it took 
relatively few priority materials or labor. 
In March LXXXIV Corps reported the 
position 65 percent finished, but the more 
critical fact was that only thirty-one of the 
planned eighty-eight resistance nests and 
strong points were actually fully ready for 
defense. In the sector of the 709th Divi- 
sion, defending the vital east coast of the 
Cotentin, only one of forty-two planned 
positions was fully prepared. Rommel de- 
cided in April that the Zweite Stellung 
was wasting time and effort that were 
vitally needed for reinforcing the main 
line of resistance. He therefore ordered 
all work discontinued except where the 
Zweite Stellung lay close to the coast and 
could be considered part of the primary 
defense. 98 Thus the last chance to secure 
some depth of defense was lost. 

But the sacrifice of depth did not re- 
sult in solidity for the main line. Despite 
Seventh Army's report that obstacles on 
the shore line and in fields suitable for 
airborne landings were complete by the 
middle of May and needed only deepen- 
ing, it was precisely that deepening which 
alone could have made them effective. 
Rommel's inspection of the antiairland- 
ing obstacles on 18 May convinced him 

87 Seventh Army KTB 1.1. -30. VI. 44, 15, 22 May 44. 

88 Ibid., 13 Apr 44. 



264 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



that, far from being complete, they had 
only just been begun. Few were mined 
and his goal was to have them all mined. 
For that purpose he required 1 3,000 shells 
for Normandy alone." As for the shore 
obstacles, they had been completed only 
along the high-water mark and a few 
yards seaward. Admiral Krancke warned 
against continued acceptance of earlier 
estimates that the Allies would land at 
high tide. 100 If landings were made near 
low tide they would not be materially 
hindered by the obstacles already in place. 
This was true but increasing their num- 
ber was inevitably a slow process. A meas- 
ure of the difficulties faced by the German 
Army was the experience of the 352d Di- 
vision, which had to cut stakes for ob- 
stacles by hand in the Foret de Cerisy some 
ten or twelve miles inland, haul the wood 
by cart to the beach, and drive the stakes, 
again by hand, into the tidal flats. 101 

Mining of the coastal zone had made 
considerable progress but was still far 
short of the goal. In the first six months 
of 1944 Rommel succeeded in tripling 
the number of mines in the coast defense 
zone. But the five or six million mines 
laid by D Day contrasted with Rommel's 
own minimum estimate of fifty million 
needed for continuous defense belts. For 
the 352d Division sector alone ten million 
were needed to cover a thirty-mile front 
to a depth of three miles. The division 

99 Bericht ueber die Reise des Herrn Oberbefehls- 
habers am 17. und 18. Mai 44. Seventh Army, KTB 
Anlagen 1.I.-30.VI.44. For lack of sufficient mines, 
the artillery shells were to be provided with trip 
wires and attached to the antiairlanding stakes. 

100 An important element in this changed estimate 
was the observation of British landing exercises in 
May. Seekriegsleitung/l.Abt., KTB 1.-31.V.44, 7 May 
44. 

101 MS # B-432 (Oberstleutnant Fritz Ziegelmann, 
G-3, 352d Division) . 



actually received about ten thousand anti- 
personnel mines during 1944 and no 
Teller mines at all. 102 

Similar incompleteness marked the for- 
tifications on D Day. On the east coast of 
the Cotentin, strong points and resistance 
nests were spaced about 875 yards apart; 
between the Orne and Vire Rivers they 
were 1,312 yards apart. 103 Most of them 
were field fortifications, sometimes with 
concreted troop shelters and sometimes 
embodying concrete gun casemates. Of 
the installations in the 352d Division 
sector only 15 percent were bombproof; 
the remainder were virtually unprotected 
against air attack. 104 The fortifications had 
no depth whatsoever. According to the 
commander of the 716th Division the 
forty to fifty fortified resistance centers in 
his sector were beaded along the coast like 
a string of pearls. 105 Generalmajor Horst 
Freiherr Treusch von Buttlar-Branden- 
fels, OKW operations staff officer, had 
warned after his inspection trip of Nor- 
mandy defenses in January that if the 
enemy broke through one strong point 
there would be a gap of three or four 
kilometers into which he could advance 
unhindered. 108 The abandonment of the 
Zweite Stellung meant that to a large 
degree this condition still prevailed in 
June. 

Rommel's inability to complete the At- 
lantic Wall undoubtedly contributed to 
the general ineffectiveness of German re- 
sistance to the Allied landings on 6 June. 
A stronger wall would have meant a 

102 Ibid.; MS # A-982 (Ruge) . 

i° 3 MS # B-234 (Pemsel) . 

10 * MS # B-432 (Ziegelmann) . 

105 MS # B-621 (Richter) . Generalleutnant Rich- 
ter commanded the 716th Division at the time of the 
invasion. 

109 MS # B-672 (Buttlar-Brandenfels) . 



GERMAN DEFENSE MEASURES, 1944 



265 



harder crust, and in cracking it the Allies 
would unquestionably have suffered 
heavier losses. But it also seems likely that 
such a difference would not have proved 
decisive. The critical weakness, as Rom- 
mel had seen, was the German inability 
to maneuver. And the most important 
cause of that was the unchallenged su- 
premacy of the Allies in the air. The Luft- 
waffe had not only been beaten before D 
Day; it had been all but annihilated. 

The story of what happened to Goer- 
ing's air force, which four years before had 
been the world-famed spearhead of blitz- 
krieg, cannot here be told in detail. 
Among the causes of its decline there was 
at least an element of bad judgment. 
Through 1942 Hitler persisted in believ- 
ing that the end of the war was just 
around the corner of the next campaign; 
at the same time he refused to recognize 
the tremendous productive capacity of the 
Western Allies, particularly the United 
States. 107 Although in 1940 the Germans 
had pioneered in the use of specially de- 
veloped attack aircraft for support of 
ground operations, after the end of the 
French campaign they neglected to de- 
velop the tactics further. They turned 
instead first to creating a bomber fleet to 
knock out England and later to producing 
fighter forces to protect the homeland. 
Their efforts on both scores were inade- 
quate. In the meantime the development 
of an Air Force to co-operate with the 
Army went by the board. In 1944 the 

107 Von Rohden, Development and planning in the 
German Air Force, Parts 1-3. Von Rohden Collec- 
tion at the Air University, Maxwell Field, Alabama. 
A microfilm of the material in this collection is in 
the Library of Congress, Washington, D. C. General- 
major Hans Detleff Herhudt von Rohden was the 
director of the Historical Section of the Luftwaffe 
High Command during the final years of the war. 



Luftwaffe depended for the most part on 
two fighter types: the Focke-Wulf 190 and 
the Messerschmitt 109. The attack plane, 
the twin-engined Junkers 88, was avail- 
able in such small quantities that the tac- 
tical air commands were equipped mainly 
with the standard interceptor aircraft. 
Not only did this mean less offensive 
power in land warfare but, more impor- 
tant, it entailed competition between the 
demands for air support and the demands 
for the defense of Germany against the 
ever intensified Combined Bomber Of- 
fensive. Thus the Germans faced the same 
dilemma in the allocation of air forces 
that they did in the division of their 
ground troops between the west and east. 
In both cases the compromise effected be- 
tween the rival claims resulted only in es- 
tablishing inferiority to the enemy on all 
fronts. And this, in turn, produced a 
spiral of attrition and increasing inferi- 
ority, spinning inevitably to disaster. 

In the beginning of 1944, when it was 
already too late, Reich Minister Albert 
Speer tried to halt the spiral by concen- 
trating on fighter production. Under the 
impetus of the Speer program monthly 
production of fighters rose steadily in 
1944 despite all the Allied air forces could 
do to destroy aircraft and ball bearing fac- 
tories. In the three months before D Day 
between seven and eight thousand fighters 
were produced. Since losses continued to 
mount, the net gain was only about a 
thousand planes. But even this gain was 
not reflected in a stronger air force. In- 
crease in the number of available aircraft 
only emphasized the critical shortage of 
qualified pilots. This in turn resulted pri- 
marily from a lack of gasoline which com- 
pelled a progressive shortening of the 
pilot-training period from about 260 



266 



CROSS CHANNEL ATTACK 



hours in 1942 to 110 and even in some 
cases to 50 in 1944. 108 The green pilots 
accelerated the deterioration of the Luft- 
waffe as a whole, since their inexperience 
increased their own losses and the losses 
of their planes. Moreover the planes 
themselves, mass produced in haste, were 
inferior. During 1943 an average of 500 
aircraft a month had been lost or dam- 
aged because of mechanical or pilot fail- 
ures. In February 1944 the losses from 
these causes soared to 1,300, accounting, 
in short, for about half the month's 
new production. This was unusual, but 
losses through accidents continued to be 
as important as losses through enemy ac- 
tion. In May, for instance, 712 aircraft 
were destroyed or damaged by the Allies, 
while 656 were lost in flying accidents. 109 
On D Day there were about 400 fighter 
planes in the west under Third Air 
Force. 110 But only about half of these were 
available to oppose Allied air forces sup- 
porting the invasion. The 400 planes were 
grouped under // Fighter Corps and di- 
vided between two subordinate com- 
mands, the 4th Fighter Division with 
headquarters at Metz and the 5th Fighter 
Division located near Paris. The mission 
of the 4th Division was to intercept Allied 
heavy bombers entering or leaving Ger- 

103 Luftwaffe Historical Section, Beurteilung des 
Krieges, 14 Aug 44. Von Rohden Collection. This 
report was based on observations of a Lt. Col. Alewyn 
who visited the west between 15 and 30 July 1944. 

109 Notes for a study on Strength and Losses of the 
GAF in the Von Rohden Collection. 

110 Notes by Von Rohden from Lagekarten, Third 
Air Force, in Von Rohden Collection; Beurteilung 
des Krieges, 14 Aug 44. Cf. German Air Force Order 
of Battle charts, 31 May and 10 June 1944, prepared 
by the Air Historical Branch of the Air Ministry, 
London, from German documents in their possession, 
MS. Hist Div files. British figures for 10 June are 
just over 400. On 31 May the number of operational 
fighter planes is given as 278. Bee^rTart^^^4?l 



many. Thus tactically its planes belonged 
to the Reich defensive system. In case of 
invasion they were to be diverted to inter- 
cept Allied planes over the invasion area, 
but with bases so far from the scene of op- 
erations they were unlikely to be very ef- 
fective, and would not be on hand on D 
Day. 111 

Despite the accepted thesis that the first 
hours of the landings would be the critical 
period for the defense of France, the Luft- 
waffe made no comprehensive plans to be 
on hand in strength during those hours, 
mostly because with its limited supply of 
planes and pilots it could not afford to 
hoard reserves in idleness while waiting 
for the Allies to strike. In December 1943 
the // A ir Corps was transferred to France 
from Italy to take over control of all the 
fighter aircraft to be used in support of 
the German Army. On D Day, however, 
the // A ir Corps was still only a headquar- 
ters without any planes. In case of inva- 
sion, it was to get ten wings (Geschwader) 
from Germany. Actually only about six 
wings arrived, and these trickled in with 
the result that they could never be em- 
ployed in a concentrated effort. None 
were on hand on 6 June. The wings ear- 
marked for // Air Corps were then just 
being refitted in Germany. The majority 
of the pilots were new graduates of the ac- 
celerated training programs. Not only did 
they have no battle experience; they were 
barely able to handle their planes. Most of 
them were not familiar with France and 
did not know how to read maps. The com- 
mander of the // Air Corps, General- 
leutnant Alfred Buelowius, aware of their 
inexperience, proposed that he send 

111 MS # B-013 (Hentschel) . Generalmajor Karl 
A. F. Hentschel was commanding general of the 5th 
Fighter Division. 



GERMAN DEFENSE MEASURES, 1944 



267 



planes out to guide the reinforcements 
into the flying fields prepared for them. 
Responsibility for the movement, how- 
ever, rested with the German Home Air 
Command (Luftflotte Reich) and Buelo- 
wius was not consulted. The result was 
that on D Day the units were scattered 
and lost on their flights from Germany 
and many were forced to make emergency 
landings. Few arrived at their assigned 
bases. 112 

Thus for one reason or another the 
planes that should have been in France on 
6 June to shield Rundstedt's army against 
intolerable Allied air supremacy were not 

112 MS # B-620 (Buelowius) . 



there. The 50 to 150 planes that did fly to 
the attack in the critical hours of the de- 
fense could achieve nothing, and the Ger- 
man Army faced the massed blows of Al- 
lied combined arms alone. 113 

113 Again reports of the number of planes vary. 
CofS // Fighter Corps estimated he had only fifty 
planes. See Survey, 18 Nov 44, Some Aspects of the 
German fighter effort during the initial stages of the 
invasion of North-West Europe, Translation No. 
VII/19 by Air Historical Branch, London. Hist Div 
files. Von Rohden's calculations all come out nearer 
150, based on Luftwaffe Historical Section reports, 
especially Ueberblick ueber den Luftkrieg, Karlsbad, 
1944. See notes for a study of Strength and Losses of 
the GAF in the Von Rohden Collection. About 1,000 
planes were brought into France between 6 June 
and 7 July but the net gain was only about 250. See 
Beurteilung des Krieges, 14 Aug 44. 




MAP I 



CHAPTER VIII 



The Sixth of June 



The Invasion Is Launched 

On 8 May General Eisenhower set D 
Day for Y plus 4, or 5 June. The plans 
were made (though changes would be in- 
troduced up to the last minute), the 
troops were trained, the preparatory soft- 
ening up of the enemy was well under 
way. What remained was to get the men 
on ships and give the order to go. The 
vastly complicated process of organizing 
and equipping the assault units for em- 
barkation began in April. It followed in 
general the pattern worked out in British 
exercises in the fall of 1943 which broke 
down the mounting into a series of move- 
ments bringing the troops successively 
nearer embarkation and at the same time 
providing for their equipment and assault 
organization. Unless the troops were al- 
ready stationed near the south coast of 
England, they were moved first to concen- 
tration areas where they received special 
equipment, waterproofed their vehicles, 
and lost certain administrative overhead 
considered unessential during the assault. 
The second move brought them to mar- 
shaling areas located close to the embarka- 
tion points. There, final supplies were is- 
sued for the voyage, maps distributed, 
briefing for the operation accomplished, 
and the units broken down into boatloads 
to await the final move down to the ships. 1 

1 Information on mounting and training from 
[Clifford Jones] neptune: Training, Mounting, The 
Artificial Ports (The Administrative and Logistical 
History of the ETO: Part IV) , MS, pp. 275ff. Hist 
Div files. 



Force U (seaborne units of the VII 
Corps) was marshaled in the Tor Bay area 
and east of Plymouth; Force O (1st Di- 
vision), in the area of Dorchester; Force 
B (29th Division), near Plymouth and 
Falmouth; and the early build-up divi- 
sions, the 9th Infantry and 2d Armored 
Divisions, near Southampton. Marshaling 
areas for the airborne units were as fol- 
lows: glider troops in the central counties 
between London and the Severn River; 
paratroopers of the 101st Division in the 
Newbury-Exeter area; paratroopers of 
the 82d Division in the eastern half of 
England, north of London. 2 \(Map VI~J[ 

About 54,000 men, including tne tem- 
porary housekeeping services of the entire 
5th Armored Division, were required to 
establish and maintain installations for 
mounting the seaborne assault forces 
alone, and to perform services necessary 
to make them ready for sailing. To cook 
their meals, more than 4,500 new army 
cooks were trained during the first three 
months of 1944. To transport them and 
haul their supplies, over 3,800 trucks were 
operated by the Southern Base Section. 

Through the first five months of 1944 
individual and group assault training had 
continued, supplemented from January 
on by large-scale exercises designed to test 
not only assault techniques but co-ordina- 
tion between the joint armies, smoothness 
of staff work in all phases of the opera- 
tion, and techniques of mounting, mar- 

2 The latter was the principal area of Eighth AF 
installations. 



270 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



shaling, loading, and unloading. These 
exercises culminated in two dress re- 
hearsals for the invasion: exercise tiger 
for Force U (VII Corps units) held at 
the end of April; the series of exercises, 
fabius, for Force O (1st Division), Force 
B (29th Division), and British assault 
and follow-up forces conducted in the 
early part of May. 

The assault exercises were held at Slap- 
ton Sands on the coast of Devon south- 
west of Dartmouth under conditions 
simulating as closely as possible those ex- 
pected in the actual operations. As a re- 
sult of the exercises certain minor techni- 
cal improvements were made, but the 
basic organization and the techniques as 
worked out at the Assault Training Cen- 
ter were unchanged. 

Amid all the simulation there came one 
serious note of war. One of the convoys 
of exercise tiger was attacked by two 
German E-boat flotillas totaling nine 
boats. 3 Losses were heavier than those 
suffered by Force U during the actual in- 
vasion. Two LST's were sunk and one 
damaged. About 700 men lost their lives. 4 
The loss of three LST's to the overlord 
assault lift was particularly critical in 
view of the general shortage of landing 
craft. General Eisenhower reported to 
the Combined Chiefs of Staff that the 
sinkings reduced the reserve of LST's 

3 Marinegruppenkommando West, KTB X6.-30.IV. 
44, 27 Apr 44. 

* Jones, Neptune, p. 258. Navy figures were 638 
killed and 89 wounded. See Report by Allied Naval 
Commander-in-Chief Expeditionary Force on Oper- 
ation NEPTUNE (London, 1944) , I, 33, cited here- 
after as ANCXF Report. Jones, historian for engineer 
units that were chiefly involved in the disaster, gives 
749 killed, and bases his calculations on after action 
reports of the units and detailed casualty break- 
downs. Even so, he feels his figures may be incom- 
plete. 



to nothing. 5 The Germans realized that 
they had sunk landing craft but guessed 
that the craft had been participating in 
an exercise. 6 The incident passed with- 
out repercussions. 

After the tiger and fabius rehearsals 
the assault troops returned to the mar- 
shaling areas to complete their last- 
minute preparations and to wait. Troops 
of Force U had almost a month of wait- 
ing. It was a trying time for the men and 
a dangerous time for the fate of the in- 
vasion. Although troops were not briefed 
on operation overlord until the last 
week in May, the fact that they were con- 
centrated and ready to go and that they 
had just practiced the invasion maneu- 
ver with the organization actually to be 
used would have been sufficient informa- 
tion in the hands of enemy agents to 
jeopardize the operation. All troops were 
therefore sealed in the marshaling areas 
behind barbed wire and with a host of 
some 2,000 Counter Intelligence Corps 
men guarding them closely. The whole 
coastal area had been closed to visitors 
since April. Now, in addition, the camps 
themselves were isolated from all contact 
with the surrounding countryside. Cam- 
ouflage discipline was more severely en- 
forced during these weeks than at any 
time subsequently during actual opera- 
tions. The German Air Force, though 
weak, was believed capable of damaging 
raids against troop concentrations and 
port areas. Actually, only one raid of 
any consequence did occur, when on the 
night of 30 May bombs were dropped in 

6 Diary of CinC, 28 Apr 44. 

6 Marinegruppenkommando West, KTB 16.-30.- 
IV. 44, 28 Apr 44. On the basis of a German broad- 
cast, the ANCXF Report erroneously stated that the 
Germans were unaware of the nature of their suc- 
cess. ANCXF Report, I, 33. 




PREINVASION SCENES. Soldiers in mess line (above) in one of the marshaling 
camps in southern England, and (below) men and equipment being loaded on LST's 
at Brixham. 




272 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



a camp near Falmouth, causing a few 
casualties to an ordnance battalion. The 
enemy continued to miss his opportuni- 
ties to disrupt the final preparations. 

Loading of Force U, Force O, and 
Force B began on 30 May, 31 May, and 
1 June, respectively, and all troops were 
aboard by 3 June. Force U craft were 
loaded mostly at Plymouth, Dartmouth, 
Tor Bay, Torquay, Poole, Salcombe, 
Brixham, and Yarmouth. They were di- 
vided into twelve convoys for the cross- 
Channel movement depending on their 
missions, assembly points, and speed. 
Force O was split into five convoys and 
the craft loaded in a relatively concen- 
trated area including the ports of Port- 
land, Weymouth, and Poole. 7 

Operation overlord was ready. 

On 29 May the senior meteorologist 
for SHAEF, Group Captain J. M. Stagg 
of the RAF, had drawn an optimistic 
long-range forecast of the weather to be 
expected in the first week of June. On 
the basis of that forecast all preparations 
had been made. General Eisenhower 
cabled General Marshall on Saturday, 3 
June: "We have almost an even chance 
of having pretty fair conditions . . . only 
marked deterioration . . . would dis- 
courage our plans." 8 But marked de- 
terioration was already in the cards. That 
Saturday evening Group Captain Stagg 
again came before the Supreme Com- 
mander and his commanders in chief 
who were meeting at Southwick House 
north of Portsmouth, the headquarters 
of Admiral Ramsay. Group Captain 
Stagg had bad news. Not only would the 



7 ANCXF Report, Vol. Ill, Rpt, Comdr Assault 
Force O, p. 5; Ibid., Rpt, Comdr Assault Force U, 
pp. 13-14. 

8 Cbl. Eisenhower Personal Files. 



weather on 5 June be overcast and 
stormy with high winds and a cloud base 
of 500 feet to zero, but the weather was 
of such a nature that forecasting more 
than twenty-four hours in advance was 
highly undependable. The long period 
of settled conditions was breaking up. It 
was decided, after discussion, to post- 
pone decision for seven hours and in the 
meantime let Force U and part of Force 
O sail on schedule for their rendezvous 
for the 5 June D Day. 

At 0430 Sunday morning a second 
meeting was held at which it was pre- 
dicted that the sea conditions would be 
slightly better than anticipated but that 
overcast would still not permit use of 
the air force. Although General Mont- 
gomery then expressed his willingness to 
go ahead with the operation as scheduled, 
General Eisenhower decided to postpone 
it for twenty-four hours. He felt that over- 
lord was going in with a very slim mar- 
gin of ground superiority and that only 
the Allied supremacy in the air made it a 
sound operation of war. If the air could 
not operate, the landings should not be 
risked. A prearranged signal was sent 
out to the invasion fleet, many of whose 
convoys were already at sea. 9 The ships 
turned back and prepared to rendezvous 
twenty-four hours later. 

On Sunday night, 4 June, at 2130 the 
high command met again in the library 
of Southwick House. Group Captain 
Stagg reported a marked change in the 
weather. A rain front over the assault 
area was expected to clear in two or three 
hours and the clearing would last until 
Tuesday morning. Winds then of 25 to 

8 The first ships actually sailed on 31 May. They 
were 54 "Corncobs" (Blockships) for the artificial 
harbors which weighed anchor from Oban. 



THE SIXTH OF JUNE 



273 




ALLIED INVASION CHIEFS. Left to right: General Bradley, Admiral Ramsey, 
Air Chief Marshal Tedder, General Eisenhower, General Montgomery, Air Chief 
Marshal Leigh-Mallory, General Smith. This photograph was taken during a con- 
ference in early 1944. 



31 knots velocity would moderate. Cloud 
conditions would permit heavy bombing 
during Monday night and Tuesday 
morning although there would be con- 
siderable cloudiness Tuesday. The cloud 
base at H Hour might be just high 
enough to permit spotting for naval gun- 
fire. 

AH this was good news, but it indi- 
cated weather that might be barely toler- 
able rather than ideal for the assault. 
After listening to the forecast Admiral 
Ramsay reminded the commanders that 
there was only half an hour to make a 
decision, and that if Admiral Kirk's 
forces were ordered to sail for a D Day 
on Tuesday, 6 June, and were later re- 
called they would not be able to sail 
again for a Wednesday rendezvous, the 
last day for two weeks on which light and 
tidal conditions would be suitable for 
the assault. 



Both Eisenhower and General Smith 
welcomed the break and felt the decision 
should be made to go in on Tuesday. 
The gamble that worried Smith was the 
possibility of not being able to spot naval 
fire but he thought it was still the best 
gamble to take. To call off the invasion 
now meant to wait until 19 June before 
it could be tried again. Troops would 
have to be disembarked with great risk 
to security, as well as to morale. The 19 
June date would mean acceptance of 
moonless conditions for the airborne 
drops. Finally, the longer the postpone- 
ment, the shorter the period of good cam- 
paigning weather on the Continent. 

Still Air Chief Marshal Leigh-Mallory 
was skeptical of the ability of ttie air force 
to operate effectively in the overcast pre- 
dicted. Air Chief Marshal Tedder agreed 
that the operations of heavies and me- 
diums were going to be "chancey." 



274 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



General Eisenhower refused the pessi- 
mistic view. "We have a great force of 
fighter-bombers," he said, and then turn- 
ing to General Montgomery he asked, 
"Do you see any reason for not going 
Tuesday"? 

"I would say— Go!" Montgomery re- 
plied. 

"The question," Eisenhower pointed 

out, "[i s ] j ust now l° n g can y ou hang 
this operation on the end of a limb and 
let it hang there." 

The discussion continued a few more 
minutes. 

At 2145 Eisenhower announced his 
decision. "I'm quite positive we must 
give the order. ... I don't like it, but 
there it is. ... I don't see how we can 
possibly do anything else." 10 

There remained still a possibility that 
the weather might become so much worse 
that the decision would have to be re- 
versed. A final meeting was held shortly 
after midnight. Weather charts were 
studied again, but nothing had changed. 
The invasion was launched and through 
the choppy waters of the Channel the 
5,000 ships and craft of the largest fleet 
ever assembled held to their carefully 
plotted courses toward the transport 
areas off the enemy coast. 

When General Eisenhower left South- 
wick House before dawn of 5 June, he 
had made the last of a long series of 
planning and command decisions which 
through three and a half years had trans- 
lated the idea of the cross-Channel attack 
into an operation of war. The war leaders, 



10 Account of the meeting from notes made by Air 
Vice Marshal James M. Robb, SHAEF CofS tor Air. 
Direct quotes are as given by Robb in sgd rpt, Mon 
a.m., 5 Jun 44. Hist Div files. 



the high commanders, the planners with 
whom we have been so long concerned 
had no choice now but to sit back and 
wait. They had done what they could 
to insure that the men who crossed the 
Channel on 5 June 1944 should have the 
greatest possible chance of success at a 
cost as low as careful planning could set 
it. Long before the armada sailed, the 
Combined Chiefs of Staff had focused 
their attention far ahead of the battle of 
the beaches. The SHAEF staff similarly 
had long been working on plans for the 
later phases of the operation. The nearer 
H Hour approached, the more heavily 
and exclusively the responsibility for the 
invasion settled on the lower com- 
manders. 

In the narrative to follow, the great 
names drop out. Even Eisenhower and 
Montgomery appear but seldom. In theiT 
place will be the corps and division com- 
manders, the colonels, the lieutenants, 
and the privates. For the few will be sub- 
stituted the many, as the battlefield, so 
long seen as a single conceptual problem, 
becomes a confused and disparate fact— 
a maze of unrelated orchards and strange 
roads, hedgerows, villages, streams and 
woods, each temporarily bounding for 
the soldier the whole horizon of the war. 

One may say of almost any successful 
operation that it carried out the plan, but 
this is to say little of how or why it suc- 
ceeded. The Normandy assault was per- 
haps as thoroughly planned as any battle 
in the history of war. Nevertheless the 
fighting men went in trained to impro- 
vise battlefield solutions to the imme- 
diate problems facing them— how to take 
out an unseen machine gun in the hedge- 
rows, how to outflank an enemy holed 



THE SIXTH OF JUNE 



275 



up in a stone farmhouse. The fighting in 
these terms proceeded not according to 
plan but according to the trial and error 
of battle. It is to the narrative of this 
testing that we now turn. 

While the Allied invasion force 
steamed across the Channel, the Ger- 
mans in France, so long schooled for this 
moment, had no direct knowledge that it 
was at hand. The enemy was all but 
blind. There had been no air recon- 
naissance during the first five days of 
June. Naval patrols scheduled for the 
night of 5-6 June, along with the mine- 
laying operations for that date, were can- 
celed because of bad weather. 

The stages of alert among the various 
commands in the west varied, reflecting 
both the nebulous character of such in- 
telligence as was available and the lack 
of command unity. On 1 and 2 June 
German agents who had penetrated Re- 
sistance groups picked up twenty-eight of 
the BBC prearranged signals ordering 
the Resistance to stand by for the code 
messages that would direct the execution 
of sabotage plans. The central SS intel- 
ligence agency in Berlin reported these 
intercepts on 3 June to Admiral Doenitz 
and warned that invasion could be con- 
sidered possible within the next fort- 
night. At the admiral's headquarters 
they were not taken too seriously. It was 
thought that perhaps an exercise was in 
progress. 11 

On the evening of 5 June OB WEST 
and Fifteenth Army independently in- 
tercepted the "B" messages which at this 
time Fifteenth Army at least understood 
to be warnings of invasion within forty- 

11 Seekriegsleitung/l.Abt., KTB 1.-30.V1.44, 3 Jun 
44. 



eight hours. 12 This was at 22 15, 13 pre- 
cisely the hour at which the transport 
planes carrying troops of the U.S. 101st 
Airborne Division began taking off from 
airfields in England. What happened 
next is not altogether clear. While Fif- 
teenth Army put its troops on the highest 
alert, Army Group B apparently took no 
action. On the basis of past experience 
Rommel's staff considered it unlikely 
that the intercepts warned of an immi- 
nent invasion. Rommel himself was in 
Herrlingen at his home, on his way to 
visit Hitler at Obersalzburg; he was not 
immediately called back. Army Group 
B did not alert Seventh Army. In fact 
the routine daily orders from Seventh 
Army headquarters to subordinate corps 
on the evening of 5 June actually can- 
celed a planned alert for that night. 14 
Perhaps the chief reason for the cancel- 
lation was that a map exercise, to which 
a number of division and lower com- 
manders in Seventh Army had been in- 
vited, was scheduled for the morning of 
6 June at Rennes. Whatever the reason, 
it is apparent that General Dollmann be- 
lieved on the night of 5 June that there 
was less cause for alarm than on many a 
previous night in May when his troops 
had been alerted. 

The net effect on German prepared- 
ness of the intercepted warnings to the 
Resistance was therefore slight. Seventh 
Army was alerted only in the sense that 
it was in the same state of "defensive 

12 Fifteenth Army, KTB 1.1.-30.VI.44, 5 Jun 44. 

13 Double British Summer Time. German clocks, 
set by Central European time, showed 2115. All 
times given in text are DBST. 

14 Rad, 5 Jun 44, Seventh Army to XXV, LXXIV, 
and LXXXIV Corps. Seventh Army, KTB Anlagen 
1.V.-5.V1.44. 



276 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



readiness" that it had been in all through 
the spring. The Resistance messages of 
the evening of 5 June may have per- 
suaded OB WEST that invasion was im- 
minent, although there is evidence that 
Rundstedt's intelligence officer at least 
rejected the warning on grounds that it 
would be absurd for the Allies to an- 
nounce their invasion in advance over 
the BBC. 15 In any case, a last-minute 
alert of the supreme headquarters in such 
vague terms was of little value for the 
command. It gave no indication of where 
or precisely when the Allies would strike; 
reconnaissance, moreover, could not be 
put out in time to answer these ques- 
tions. 

As for the Navy, it was, on 5 June, 
thoroughly complacent. German naval 
experts had calculated that Allied land- 
ings would be possible only in seas of less 
than intensity 4, 16 with a wind force up to 
24 knots and a visibility of at least three 
sea miles. These conditions were not 
being met on 5 June. 17 Lacking weather- 
reporting stations to the west whence 
most of the Channel weather came, the 
German meteorologists were unable to 
make reliable predictions. 18 Weather 
planes flew out over the North Sea daily 
to points west of Ireland, but the data 

15 Marinegruppenkommando West, KTB 1.-7. VI.- 
44, 6 Jun 44. 

16 Wave heights between five and eight feet. 

17 Seventh and Fifteenth Army commanders 
thought the weather was not too adverse for inva- 
sion, but it is not clear what standards they applied. 
See the KTB's for the respective armies. The almost 
complete lack of co-ordination between Army, Navy, 
and Air Force headquarters makes generalization on 
German preparedness extremely difficult. 

18 One German meteorologist commented that com- 
manders were virtually reduced to looking at the 
morning skies for their weather forecasts. See Interv 
with Maj Heinz Lettau, 5 Oct 49. Hist Div files. 



provided by their observations were of 
limited usefulness. The Germans could 
not have forecast the break in the 
weather which Group Captain Stagg re- 
ported to General Eisenhower. 19 Al- 
though there is no evidence that mete- 
orologists advised German commanders 
that invasion on 6 June was impossible, 
it is clear that the generally unfavorable 
wind and sea conditions contributed to 
reducing the enemy's alertness. 20 

This was particularly true of the naval 
command. Lulled into a sense of security 
by the weather and the judgment that 
the Allies had not yet completed essen- 
tial preparatory bombardment of the 
coastal fortifications, Admiral Krancke 
received reports of the SOE intercepts on 
5 June without alarm. Notice of the 
BBC affair was faithfully transcribed in 
his war diary for 6 June together with 
his assurances that nothing was likely to 
happen— all under the general heading: 
"Large-scale enemy landing in the Seine 
Bay." 21 



19 It is likely, however, that they would not have 
considered that the break made invasion possible, 
since weather conditions were still unsettled and the 
German Navy view was that at least five consecutive 
days of favorable weather would be necessary for 
the success of the landings. Rpt, Beitraege zur Frage 
der Landemoeglichkeiten an der Kueste des Kanals, 
1 Jan 44. Seekriegsleitung/l.Abt., KTB Anlagen I.I.- 
30. VI .44. 

20 The story told by Captain Harry C. Butcher, 
My Three Years with Eisenhower (New York, 1946) , 
pp. 646-47, concerning German weather predictions 
is erroneous. Major Lettau, far from being "the chief 
German meteorologist," was in fact attached to an 
antiaircraft outfit and had nothing to do with fore- 
casting invasion weather. He was with the 155th Flak 
Regiment, stationed in Amiens, and his job was to 
analyze flying conditions over England from data 
collected by radio sound stations. See interv cited n. 
18. 

21 Marinegruppenkommando West, KTB 1.-7. VI.- 
44, 6 Jun 44. 




GERMAN FIELD COMMANDERS. Upper left, General von Schlieben; upper 
right, General Marcks; lower left, General Geyr von Schweppenburg; lower right, 
General Dollmann. 



278 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



The Airborne Assault 

The time and place at least of the 
"large-scale landing" caught the Germans 
wholly by surprise. Seventh Army's first 
knowledge that anything was afoot was 
a series of reports in the early morning 
hours of 6 June that Allied paratroopers 
were dropping from the skies over Nor- 
mandy. At 0130 Lt. Col. Hoffmann, com- 
mander of the 3d Battalion, 919th Regi- 
ment of the 709th Division, was at his 
headquarters in St. Floxel east of Monte- 
bourg. [(Map VII )| He heard aircraft 
approaching. 1 he sound indicated great 
numbers, and, as he listened during the 
next hour, it seemed to him to swell 
louder and louder. At 0200 six airplanes 
flying, he thought, at about 500 feet 
approached the headquarters shelter and 
released parachutists in front of and 
above it. In a few minutes Hoffmann's 
staff and security guards were heavily 
engaged with paratroopers of the 101st 
Airborne Division in one of the opening 
skirmishes of the battle for Normandy. 22 

News of the landings spread fast. At 
0215 Seventh Army ordered the highest 
state of alarm through the LXXXIV 
Corps sector. The alarm was passed at 
once by wire to all Army, Navy and Air 
Force units in the corps area. At 0220 
Naval Commander Normandy (Konter- 
admiral Walther Hennecke) 23 reported 
paratroopers near the Marcouf battery. 
During the next five minutes additional 
reports came in of landings in the sector 
of the 716th and 711th Divisions. Before 

22 Hoffmann Report. Seventh Army, KTB Anlagen 
I.I.-10.V1A4. 

23 Naval district commander for the Normandy 
coast, under Admiral Kanalkueste who had the whole 
Channel coast command. See naval command chart, 
p. 245. 



three o'clock LXXXIV Corps had taken 
its first prisoner. The situation was still 
obscure, but, as reports piled in, some- 
thing of the extent and scale of the opera- 
tion became visible. Generalmajor Max 
Pemsel, Seventh Army chief of staff, had 
already (by 0300) concluded that the 
long-heralded major invasion had begun, 
and had correctly located the points of 
main effort near Carentan and Caen. 24 
His judgment, however, was at this time 
a minority report. Field Marshals Rund- 
stedt and Sperrle and Admiral Krancke 
as well as Rommel's chief of staff, Gen- 
eralleutnant Hans Speidel, all thought 
they were probably experiencing the 
diversionary operation which had been 
expected in the Seventh Army area 
while the Allies prepared to strike the 
main blow against Fifteenth Army. But, 
whatever the larger estimate of the situa- 
tion, local measures could be and were 
promptly taken. The 91st Division in 
reserve in the Cotentin was released to 
Seventh Army, attached to LXXXIV 
Corps, and, together with the 709th Divi- 
sion, was ordered to counterattack. There 
was actually little else to be done. All 
units in the Cotentin had been briefed 
to expect airborne operations. The meet- 
ing engagement was inevitably the indi- 
vidual problem of these units. 

The situation on the American side 
was similar. The first actions of all air- 
borne units in the Cotentin on D Day 
were attempts by small groups of men to 
carry out in the fog of the battlefield 
their own small portions of the assigned 
plan. There could be little over-all direc- 
tion from above. And, in fact, little in- 

24 He reversed himself later in the day to agree 
with higher command estimates. Tel Msgs. Seventh 
Army, KTB Anlagen Id .-30. VI. 44. 



THE SIXTH OF JUNE 




PARACHUTE TROOPS marching onto airfield an evening of 5 June. 



formation got through to corps and army 
as to what was happening. 25 

By the revised VII Corps field order of 
28 May both U.S. airborne divisions were 
to land in the eastern hall of the penin- 
sula between Ste. Merc F.glise and Caren- 
tan, establishing a beachhead from which 
the corps would push west and north to 
the capture of Cherbourg. The six para- 
chute regiments of the two divisions, 
which together with organic supporting 
units numbered over 13,000 men, were 
loaded in 822 transport planes at nine 
airfields in England. They began taking 
off before midnight to fly routes calcu- 
lated to bring the hrst serials in from the 
west side of the Cotentin Peninsula and 
over the designated drop zones between 
0115 and 0130. The main flights were 
preceded by pathfinder planes that were 

* See First Army G~3 Jnl. 



to land paratroopers to mark the drop 
zones. Glider reinforcements would be 
brought in at dawn and again at dusk on 
landing /ones that the paratroopers were 
expected to have cleared of the enemy. 
The whole airborne operation was by far 
the largest and most hazardous ever un- 
dertaken, and thousands of American 
lives depended on its success. 28 



3 Allied airborne operations required 1,087 trans- 
port aircraft including lift for the pathfinders but 
excluding aircraft used to tow gliders. See AEAF 
Merau, Operation "nePtune," Employment of Brit- 
ish and American Airborne Forces. 27 May 44. 
SHAEF G-3 file 24533/Ops (Future Operations). 
Pathfinders of the 101st Airborne Division hegan 
dropping at 0015; the first serial of combat troops 
was scheduled to drop at 0) (9. See Leonard Rapport 
and Arthur Norwood, Jr., Rendezvous with Destiny 
(Washington, 1948) , pp. 73, 94. 

Records of airborne operations in the Cotentin are 
very sketchy; those of the 101st Airborne Division 
in particular are all but useless. The narrative fol- 
lowing is based on a set of comprehensive interviews 



280 



CROSS CHANNEL ATTACK 



The primary mission of the 101st 
Airborne Division was to seize the west- 
ern edge of the flooded area back of the 
beach between St. Martin-de-Varreville 
and Pouppeville. Its secondary mission 
was to protect the southern flank of VII 
Corps and be prepared to exploit south- 
ward through Carentan. The latter task 
was to be carried out by destroying two 
bridges on the main Carentan highway 
and the railroad bridge west of it, by 
seizing and holding the la Barquette lock, 
and finally by establishing a bridgehead 
over the Douve River northeast of 
Carentan. 

Two parachute regiments less one bat- 
talion, the 502d and the 506th (— ), were 
assigned the primary mission. The 502d 
Parachute Infantry, with the 377th Para- 
chute Field Artillery Battalion attached, 
was to drop near St. Martin-de-Varreville, 
destroy the enemy coastal battery there, 
secure the two northern beach exits, and 
establish a defensive line tying in the 
division's north flank with the 82d Air- 
borne Division to the west. The 506th 
Infantry would seize the two southern 
exits. 

The four battalion serials of the 502d 
Infantry came in ten minutes apart led 
by the 2d Battalion and regimental head- 
quarters. The leading planes, scattered 
by clouds and flak, dropped the majority 

conducted during July 1944 by Col. S. L. A. Marshall 
with officers and men of the airborne units. Colonel 
Marshall, subsequently European Theater Historian, 
developed the information thus secured in a num- 
ber of battalion and regimental studies which in 
mimeographed form are in the Historical Division 
files. The airborne material is exploited in greater 
detail than here in [R. G. Ruppenthal] Utah Beach 
to Cherbourg (Washington, 1948) , to which the 
author is generally indebted for the bulk of the 
story of U.S. VII Corps operations during June 1944. 
See Bibliographical Note. 



of the 2d Battalion outside their assigned 
zone. \Map VIH)\ The battalion as a re- 
sult spent most of the day assembling 
and, as a unit, took no part in the D-Day 
fighting. The regiment's planned artil- 
lery support did not materialize. Only 
one of the six howitzers of the 377th 
Field Artillery Battalion was recovered 
after the drop, and the fifty men of the 
battalion who assembled during the day 
fought as infantry in scattered actions. 27 
The commander of the 3d Battalion, 
502d, Lt. Col. Robert G. Cole, d ropped 
east of Ste. Mere-Eglise. \(See Map VII .}] 
He began then to make nis way toward 
St. Martin-de-Varreville. Out of the 
darkness, toy "crickets" snapped as para- 
troopers identified themselves and began 
assembling in groups. The groups were 
generally miscellaneous at first. The men 
looked only for company and leadership. 
Seventy -five men, including some para- 
troopers from the 82d Airborne Division, 
gathered in this way under Colonel Cole 
and moved steadily toward the coast. 
Except for an encounter with a small 
enemy convoy on the way, in which some 
Germans were killed and ten taken 
prisoner, the group had no trouble reach- 
ing its objective. Discovering that the 
guns of the St. Martin coastal battery 
had been removed and that the position 
was deserted, Cole went on to Audou- 
ville-la-Hubert where his men estab- 
lished themselves at the western end of 
the causeway without a fight. 28 About 

« 377th FA Bn AAR. 

28 Bombing had not injured the six Russian 122- 
mm. guns at the St. Martin emplacement but had so 
damaged the fire control setup that the guns were 
moved before the invasion. See MS # B-260 (Gen- 
eralmajor Gerhard Triepel, gen. Schulze) . Triepel 
during the first half of June commanded the 1261st 
Army Coastal Artillery Regiment; in the latter half, 
he was artillery commander of LXXXIF Corps. 



THE SIXTH OF JUNE 



281 



two hours later, at 0930, the enemy be- 
gan retreating across the causeway from 
the beach. The paratroopers, lying in 
wait, shot down fifty to seventy-five and 
at 1300 made contact with the 8th In- 
fantry (4th Division). They had suf- 
fered no casualties. Cole, having com- 
pleted his mission, remained in the area 
to collect and organize his battalion. By 
the end of the day he had about 250 men. 
With this group he was ordered into 
regimental reserve near Blosville for the 
next day's operations. 

The 1st Battalion, 502d Parachute In- 
fantry (Lt. Col. Patrick J. Cassidy), had 
a much harder fight for its objectives. 
Colonel Cassidy, landing about in the 
center of the battalion zone near St. Ger- 
main-de-Varreville, collected a small 
force mostly of his own men and moved 
toward the stone buildings on the east- 
ern edge of Mesieres which were thought 
to be occupied by the German unit man- 
ning the St. Martin coastal battery. With- 
out opposition the battalion secured the 
crossroads west of St. Martin near which 
the building stood. Taking stock of his 
position there, Colonel Cassidy found 
that both the northern exits for which 
the regiment was responsible were clear. 
He then made contact with a group of 
forty-five men of the battalion who had 
assembled north of his own position and 
ordered them to establish a defensive line 
at Foucarville. The situation to the west 
of St. Martin, however, remained ob- 
scure. Colonel Cassidy decided to keep a 
portion of his force (nominally a com- 
pany) in reserve to block any enemy at- 
tempt to break through from the west to 
the beaches. A group of about fifteen 
men was sent to clean out the buildings 
on the eastern edge of Mesieres. This 



fight was conducted almost single- 
handedly by S/Sgt. Harrison Summers. 
Summers rushed the buildings one by 
one, kicked in the doors, and sprayed 
the interiors with his Tommy gun. On 
occasion he had the assistance of another 
man, but it was his drive and initiative 
that kept the attack going. When the 
last building was cleared in the after- 
noon, about 150 Germans had been 
killed or captured. 29 

Near the close of this action Lt. Col. 
John H. Michaelis, regimental com- 
mander, arrived in the area with 200 
men. Cassidy was thus free to complete 
his D-Day mission to cover the north 
flank of the regiment and tie in with the 
82d Airborne Division on the left. While 
the fight near Mesieres was in progress 
the men of the 1st Battalion whom Colo- 
nel Cassidy had sent to Foucarville in the 
morning had succeeded in establishing 
four road blocks in and around the town 
and had trapped and largely destroyed a 
four-vehicle enemy troop convoy. De- 
spite this early success the road blocks 
were threatened all day with being over- 
run by a superior enemy force that oc- 
cupied prepared positions on a hill to 
the northwest. 

The American situation was not im- 
mediately improved by Cassidy's move 
north, since he came up west of Foucar- 
ville in order to carry out the plan of 
tying in at Beuzeville-au-Plain with the 
82d Airborne Division. He ran into 
trouble there. The company ordered to 
Beuzeville-au-Plain mistook the hamlet 
of le Fournel for its objective and there 
became involved in three separate pla- 

29 Summers was awarded the DSC. Details of the 
action from interviews by Col. S. L. A. Marshall. Hist 
Div files. 



282 



CROSS CHANNEL ATTACK 



toon fights which proceeded in some con- 
fusion until dark. The troops then 
withdrew to the south where they re- 
mained under enemy pressure during 
the night. Since contact was not made 
with the 82d Airborne Division, Cassidy 
committed the reserve company on the 
left and moved up some spare riflemen to 
fill the gap between le Fournel and the 
road blocks around Foucarville. Even 
so the whole line remained very weak, 
and the regimental commander, having 
already decided to pass the 2d Battalion 
through the 1st on the following day, 
ordered Colonel Cassidy to pull back and 
dig in. 

During the night the Germans facing 
the battalion's right flank at Foucarville 
unexpectedly decided to surrender, ap- 
parently because the increasing volume 
of American machine gun and mortar 
fire led them to overestimate the bat- 
talion's strength. Eighty-seven Germans 
were taken prisoner and about fifty more 
shot down as they attempted to escape. 

Here as elsewhere in the 101st Air- 
borne Division's early contacts with the 
enemy, it seems that the German disper- 
sion of units in small packets to garrison 
villages and strong points took no ac- 
count of the splintering effect of airborne 
landings in their midst, even though the 
enemy command expected just such 
landings. The isolated German units, 
apparently out of contact with their 
parent outfits, ignorant of what was occur- 
ring as well as of what German counter- 
measures were in the making, were prone 
to fancy themselves about to be over- 
whelmed whenever American fire was 
brought to bear on them with any per- 
sistence. The attackers at least had the 
psychological advantage of knowing the 



large things that had been planned, even 
though they seldom knew what was ac- 
tually happening beyond the field or 
village in which they found themselves. 

The two beach exits south of the zone 
of the 502d Infantry were the responsibil- 
ity of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regi- 
ment (Col. Robert F. Sink). The 506th 
(less the 3d Battalion) was to land be- 
tween Hiesville and Ste. Marie-du-Mont 
and seize the western edge of the inun- 
dated area between Audouville-la-Hubert 
and Pouppeville. The 3d Battalion, 
dropping just south of Vierville and 
charged with defending the Douve River 
line in the regiment's sector, was to seize 
two bridges at le Port and establish a 
bridgehead there for subsequent exploi- 
tation southward. 

Like the 502d, the 506th experienced 
a badly scattered drop, but had rather 
better luck in assembling rapidly. With- 
in two hours of landing, about ninety 
men of regimental headquarters and 
fifty men of the 1st Battalion (Lt. Col. 
William L. Turner) had assembled in 
the regimental zone. Colonel Sink estab- 
lished his command post at Culoville. 
At the same time the 2d Battalion (Lt. 
Col. Robert L. Strayer), despite a landing 
completely out of its zone in the sector 
of the 502d Parachute Infantry to the 
north, succeeded in assembling rapidly 
about 200 of its men. Strayer had the 
principal regimental mission of securing 
the southern beach exits at Houdien- 
ville and Pouppeville. Before dawn his 
men headed south toward their objec- 
tives. They ran into opposition on the 
same road over which the 1st Battalion, 
502d Parachute Infantry, had passed 
shortly before. Delayed all morning by 
enemy machine guns, they did not reach 



THE SIXTH OF JUNE 



283 



their first objective, Houdienville, until 
early afternoon, after the seaborne troops 
were already through the exit and pro- 
ceeding inland. 

Meanwhile Colonel Sink, at Culoville, 
knowing nothing of the 2d Battalion's 
movements, decided to send his reserve, 
the 1st Battalion under Colonel Turner, 
to carry out a part of the mission. Tur- 
ner's "battalion" of fifty men was ordered 
to Pouppeville. Again relatively light 
enemy opposition succeeded in harassing 
the march and delaying for several hours 
Turner's arrival on his objective. 

In the course of the delay a third unit 
was sent on the same mission by the divi- 
sion commander, Maj. Gen. Maxwell 
Taylor, 30 who had no knowledge of the 
two previous moves. The 3d Battalion, 
501st Parachute Infantry (Lt. Col. Julian 
Ewell), had been designated to land as 
division reserve with the additional task 
of protecting the glider landing zone 
northwest of Hiesville. Although three 
planes of the 3d Battalion serial were 
shot down with the loss of three-quarters 
of their personnel and other planes were 
scattered by fog and flak, enough carried 
out their scheduled drops so that about 
300 men of the battalion and of the divi- 
sion headquarters were able to assemble 
quickly and establish the division com- 
mand post as planned near Hiesville. 
From there Colonel Ewell, with a group 
of about forty men from the line com- 
panies and some miscellaneous head- 

30 General Taylor, commissioned in the Corps of 
Engineers from West Point in 1922, transferred to 
the Field Artillery in 1926. As chief of staff of the 
82d Division in 1942 he assisted in organizing the 
first airborne divisions. In 1943 he went overseas as 
artillery commander of the reorganized 82d Airborne 
Division. After serving through the Sicilian and 
Italian campaigns he received command of the 101st 
Airborne Division in March 1944. 



quarters personnel, was sent at 0600 to 
clear the Pouppeville beach exit. 

At about 0800 Ewell's men reached 
Pouppeville and attacked to clean it out. 
The enemy force of approximately sixty 
to seventy men of the 1058th Regiment 
(91st Division) 31 did not offer deter- 
mined resistance, but it was nevertheless 
a slow task for the numerically inferior 
Americans to fight them house to house. 
It was noon before the local German 
commander surrendered. The Americans 
had suffered eighteen casualties, while 
inflicting twenty-five on the enemy and 
taking thirty-eight prisoners. The rest 
of the enemy in Pouppeville retreated 
toward the beach where they were caught 
by the advancing U.S. seaborne forces, 
and at last surrendered to the 8th In- 
fantry. The first contact between sea- 
borne and airborne forces was made at 
Pouppeville between Colonel Ewell's 
men and the 2d Battalion, 8th Infantry 
(Lt. Col. Carlton O. MacNeely). 

Throughout D Day Colonel Sink at the 
506th regimental headquarters felt 
wholly isolated and almost alone on the 
Cotentin Peninsula. Most of the time 
he was out of touch with his own bat- 
talions and with the division; he had 
little information about the enemy, and 
his headquarters was involved in scat- 
tered fights for its own security. The 
regiment unknowingly had set up in the 
midst of a small hornet's nest. In the Ste. 
Marie-du-Mont area was the entire 2d 
Battalion of the 191st Artillery Regiment 
which had been committed to coastal de- 
fense in the 709th Division sector. 32 The 
battalion headquarters was in Ste. Marie 

31 Probably of the 3d Battalion, whose headquar- 
ters was at St. Come-du-Mont. 
82 MS # D-330 (Blumentritt) . 



284 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



and the three batteries, each with four 
105-mm. howitzers, were all in the im- 
mediate vicinity. Four of the pieces were 
captured near Holdy by groups of the 1st 
Battalion, 506th Infantry. The enemy 
battalion headquarters was overrun by 
combined action of the 506th Infantry 
and elements of the 4th Division later 
in the day. 83 For the most part, however, 
Colonel Sink had no men to spare either 
to clear the enemy from his immediate 
vicinity or even to reconnoiter to make 
contact with other friendly units. He be- 
lieved it necessary to keep together his 
handful of men to protect the rear of 
the units engaged in clearing the cause- 
ways and to provide a nucleus for con- 
centration of the regiment. The group 
maintained itself, fighting off enemy rifle- 
men who twice during the day closed in 
among the surrounding hedgerows. In 
the evening, with forces of the 1st and 
2d Battalions, Colonel Sink controlled 
about 650 men. 

The hedgerows, which bottled up 
Colonel Sink's men in apparent isolation 
despite the nearness of friendly units, 
were to become the most important 
single preoccupation of American fight- 
ing men during their next two months 
in Normandy and would remain as their 
most vivid memory of the land. These 
hedgerows, ubiquitous throughout the 
Cotentin and the bocage country, were 
earth dikes averaging about four feet in 
height and covered with tangled hedges, 
bushes, and even trees. Throughout the 
entire country they boxed in fields and 
orchards of varying sizes and shapes, few 
larger than football fields and many 
much smaller. Each hedgerow was a po- 

33 Another of the batteries was captured still later 
by the 8th Infantry. See below, p. 329. 



tential earthwork into which the de- 
fenders cut often-elaborate foxholes, 
trenches, and individual firing pits. The 
dense bushes atop the hedgerows pro- 
vided ample concealment for rifle and 
machine gun positions, which could sub- 
ject the attacker to devastating hidden fire 
from three sides. Observation for artil- 
lery and mortar fire was generally limited 
to a single field, particularly in the rela- 
tively flat ground of the beachhead areas. 
Each field thus became a separate battle- 
field which, when defended with deter- 
mination, had to be taken by slow costly 
advances of riflemen hugging the hedge- 
rows to close with the enemy with rifle 
and grenade. Both Americans and Ger- 
mans complained that the hedgerows 
favored the other side and made their 
own operations difficult. In fact, the 
country was ideal for static defense and 
all but impossible for large co-ordinated 
attacks or counterattacks. The chief bur- 
den of the fighting remained with the 
individual soldier and the advance of his 
unit depended substantially on his own 
courage and resourcefulness, and above 
all on his willingness to move through 
machine gun and mortar fire to root the 
enemy out of his holes. 

The 101st Airborne Division within 
a relatively few hours of landing had 
secured the western edge of the inun- 
dated area west of utah Beach. The task 
was accomplished, not quite according to 
plan, but on time and with much smaller 
cost than anyone had thought possible 
before the operation. 34 The remaining 

34 Total D-Day casualties calculated in August 1944 
amounted to 1,240 including 182 known killed and 
501 missing and presumed captured or killed. See 
32d MRU Rpt, Analysis of Battle Casualty Reports 
Received from 101st Airborne Division, 13 Aug 44. 
FUSA file CC 21, dr 4, item 704. 



286 



CROSS CHANNEL ATTACK 



part of the division's D-Day task was to 
seize and occupy the line of the Douve 
River on either side of Carentan, ini- 
tially to protect the southern flank of VII 
Corps and later to drive southward 
through Carentan to weld together the 
VII and V Corps beachheads. 

The 3d Battalion, 506th Parachute In- 
fantry, was to drop south of Vierville, 
seize two bridges over the Douve at le 
Port, and establish a bridgehead on the 
south bank of the river. Its mission came 
perilously near failure at the outset. The 
enemy, fully alerted before the drop, 
not only put up a heavy antiaircraft bar- 
rage but illuminated the drop zone by 
setting fire to an oil-soaked building near 
by. Paratroopers that landed in the area 
were greeted by a concentration of ma- 
chine gun bullets and mortar shells. 
Others, experiencing delayed drops, came 
down in or near the swamplands east of 
the drop zone. 

The battalion S-3, Capt. Charles G. 
Shettle, landing near Angoville-au- 
Plain, collected two officers and twelve 
men and then proceeded at once across 
the flat marshy river plain toward his 
objective. By the time he reached the 
bridge at Brevands at 0430 he had picked 
up a total of thirty-three men, and was 
there reinforced by twenty more a little 
later and by another forty during the 
night of 6-7 June. Shettle's group es- 
tablished themselves first on the south- 
east bank of the river but could not hold 
the position in the face of increasing 
enemy machine gun fire. They therefore 
withdrew across the river and dug in on 
the northwest bank. During the day the 
enemy did not counterattack; in the 
middle of the night he made only a half- 
hearted push toward the bridge, from 



which he readily backed off when the 
Americans opened fire. The situation at 
Brevands on D Day paralleled that on the 
northern flank where the 502d Parachute 
Infantry was also holding a tenuous line 
facing superior enemy forces. Both de- 
fenses succeeded chiefly by grace of the 
enemy's reluctance to leave his prepared 
positions and attack, and his confusion 
as to American strength and intentions. 
It is worth observing, however, that the 
Carentan canal was the boundary be- 
tween the 709th and 352d Divisions. The 
latter, located to the south, would not 
attack across the canal without orders 
from corps. Corps, in fact, had ordered 
the reserve unit, the 6th Parachute Regi- 
ment, to make such an attack from the 
south but it did not at once come into 
action. 35 

Completion of the 101st Division's de- 
fense of the Douve River line west to St. 
C6me-du-Mont was the task of the 501st 
Parachute Infantry (Col. Howard R. 
Johnson) less the 3d Battalion. The regi- 
ment's missions in detail were to seize 
the lock at la Barquette, blow the bridges 
on the St. C6me-du-Mont-Carentan 
road, take St. C6me-du-Mont if possible, 
and destroy the railroad bridge to the 
west. Of these objectives the lock at la 
Barquette had a special importance for 
the planners. 

The purpose of the lock was to permit 
the controlled flow of the tide up the 
river channel so as to maintain a depth 
sufficient for barge navigation as far up- 
stream as St. Sauveur-le Vicomte. If the 
lock were destroyed the swamplands of 
the Douve and Merderet would suffer 
erratic tidal flooding. On the other 



3= Sec below, pp. 293 ff. 



THE SIXTH OF JUNE 



287 



hand, partial obstruction of the lock 
would permit controlled flooding of the 
same area by backing up the river flow. 
The latter kind of inundation had been 
effected by the Germans before D Day. 
Capture of the lock, it was believed, was 
tactically important in order that VII 
Corps might control the Douve and Mer- 
deret inundations, which together con- 
stituted a barrier to military movement 
across the whole eastern half of the base 
of the peninsula. The importance was 
stressed even though it was recognized 
that flooding and draining of the area 
were slow processes and that the natural 
swamps and flat bottomlands, crisscrossed 
with drainage ditches, in themselves 
formed a convincing obstacle to vehicle 
movement and a grave hindrance to in- 
fantry maneuver. 

Just before D Day the drop zone for 
the 501st Parachute Infantry (and the 
3d Battalion, 506th) had been shifted 
about a mile and a half southeast— from 
the vicinity of Beaumont to east and 
south of Angoville-au-Plain— in order to 
bring the paratroopers down nearer their 
objective and avoid the antiairlanding 
obstacles which last-minute reconnais- 
sance had discovered on the original drop 
zone. The change does not seem to have 
been responsible for the inaccuracy of 
the drop. The scattering of the 1st Bat- 
talion planes resulted from the same con- 
ditions of fog and enemy antiaircraft fire 
which had affected all the other airborne 
units and was certainly no more serious. 
What was serious, however, was the loss 
in the drop of the entire battalion com- 
mand. The commanding officer was 
killed; the staff and all the company 
commanders were missing from the first 
critical battles. 



Colonel Johnson, the regimental com- 
mander, by good fortune landed about 
where he was supposed to and, in the 
process of moving southward toward la 
Barquette, managed to collect some 150 
men of miscellaneous units with whom 
he set out to accomplish his mission. The 
first step went well. Before the enemy 
had been fully alerted, a portion of the 
force crossed the lock and dug in on the 
far side. They seemed relatively secure 
there as the enemy made no attempt to 
press in on them. Colonel Johnson there- 
fore decided to try to get the Douve 
bridges to the west. With fifty men he 
first went north to Basse Addeville, where 
he had ascertained that a considerable 
number of paratroopers had assembled 
under Maj. Richard J. Allen, the regi- 
mental S-3. Although Allen's men were 
already in contact with the enemy to 
the north and west, it proved possible to 
assemble about fifty of them in the early 
afternoon to return with Colonel John- 
son to la Barquette. Met by intense 
enemy artillery, mortar, and small arms 
fire, chiefly from the rear, the force called 
for naval fire support through a naval 
shore fire control officer who had initially 
joined Major Allen's unit at Addeville. 
Salvos from the 8-inch guns of the 
Quincy adjusted on enemy positions 
around St. C6me-du-Mont caused almost 
immediate slackening of the enemy fire. 
At about 1500 Major Allen was ordered 
to bring the rest of his force to the lock 
and he joined Colonel Johnson an hour 
or two later. 36 

36 The account here follows that of Col. S. L. A. 
Marshall, who interviewed a number of the officers 
and men, including Colonel Johnson, soon after the 
action. See Marshall's account in The Fight at the 
Lock, mimeo MS. Hist Div files. Some doubt has 
subsequently arisen as to whether Johnson reached 



288 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



Even with this support, however, it 
proved impossible to advance westward 
to the Douve bridges. The 3d Battalion 
of the 1058th Regiment held St. Come- 
du-Mont and the surrounding ground in 
force and strongly resisted with fire every 
move in that direction. The opposition 
here in the sector of the 91st Division 
and immediately to the south where the 
6th Parachute Regiment held Carentan 
and the road and rail bridges was much 
more determined than anywhere in the 
coastal sector held by the 709th Division. 

The unexpected strength of the enemy 
in the Carentan-St. C6me-du-Mont area 
had been discovered by the 2d Battalion, 
501st Parachute Infantry (Lt. Col. 
Robert A. Ballard), shortly before Colo- 
nel Johnson tried unsuccessfully to move 
westward. Colonel Ballard had assem- 
bled parts of his lettered companies and 
his battalion staff between Angoville-au- 
Plain and les Droueries. Since his as- 
signed mission was the destruction of the 
Douve bridges above Carentan, he began 
at once an attack toward St. C6me-du- 
Mont. The companies, of about thirty 
men each, ran into strong opposition in 
the hamlet of les Droueries, which they 
had attacked frontally in the belief that 
not more than an enemy platoon faced 
them. After they were turned back ini- 
tially, a renewed flanking attack was 
meeting some success when Colonel Bal- 



Uie lock during the morning before he made con- 
tact with Major Allen. See Lawrence Critchell, Four 
Stars of Hell (New York, 1947) , pp. 52-54. In view 
of Colonel Johnson's death, the issue cannot be 
finally settled. The evidence for Critchell's version 
does not seem conclusive. See Leonard Rapport and 
Arthur Norwood, Jr., Rendezvous with Destiny 
(Washington, 1948), p. 111. Rapport tried unsuc- 
cessfully to resolve the difficulty through extensive 
correspondence with survivors. 



lard was ordered by Colonel Johnson to 
move to la Barquette to participate in 
the drive from that point toward the Car- 
entan highway. The 2d Battalion disen- 
gaged but, in attempting to move south 
through Addeville, was stopped almost 
immediately by heavy fire from the same 
enemy force that had opposed the attack 
on les Droueries. Ballard's men remained 
during the night in close contact with 
the enemy. In the meantime, Colonel 
Johnson, abandoning for the time the 
attempt to get to the Douve bridges, con- 
solidated the position at la Barquette, 
deepening the southern bridgehead, 
pushing out his flanks, and maintaining 
contact with the 3d Battalion, 506th Para- 
chute Infantry, on the east. Patrols dur- 
ing the night of 6-7 June were sent out to 
try to find the 506th Regiment and divi- 
sion headquarters, but they did not suc- 
ceed and the southern line remained iso- 
lated and precariously held by groups 
equivalent to about three companies in- 
stead of three battalions as planned. 

By the end of D Day the 101st Air- 
borne Division had assembled only about 
2,500 of the 6,600 men who had dropped 
during the early morning hours. 37 They 
were distributed in mixed units of vary- 
ing size. But despite the handicaps of 
scattered landings and heavy losses in 
both men and equipment the division 
had carried out the most important of 
its D-Day tasks. Above all, the paratroop- 
ers had succeeded in clearing the way for 
the move of the seaborne forces inland. 
This was the task which had been con- 
sidered so vital to the whole Allied inva- 
sion plan as to warrant the extraordinary 



37 See above, n. 34. 



THE SIXTH OF JUNE 



289 



risk of airborne landings in heavily de- 
fended enemy territory. If the division's 
defensive line north and south was weak, 
that weakness was for the moment bal- 
anced by the enemy's failure to organize 
concerted counterattacks. 

The position of the 82d Airborne Di- 
vision (Maj. Gen. Matthew B. Ridg- 
way) 38 on the west was cause for far 
greater concern both to General Ridgway 
and to the Allied command. Landing on 
the edge of the assembly area of the Ger- 
man 91st Division, it met more deter- 
mined opposition in the early stages. It 
suffered more seriously also from scat- 
tered drops which left two of its regiments 
unable to assemble in sufficient force to 
carry out their missions. 

By the revised plan of 28 May, Ridg- 
way's division was ordered to drop astride 
the Merderet River, clear the western por- 
tion of the beachhead area between the 
sea and the Merderet and from the Douve 
River north to Ste. Mere-Eglise, and es- 
tablish a bridgehead on the west bank of 
the Merderet. One parachute regiment 
(the 505th) was to capture Ste. Mere- 
Eglise, secure crossings of the Merderet 
near la Fiere and Chef-du-Pont, and es- 
tablish a defensive line north from Neu- 
ville-au-Plain to Beuzeville-au-Plain to tie 
in with the 502d Parachute Infantry of 
the 101st Airborne Division. The other 
two regiments (507th and 508th), drop- 



38 General Ridgway, a 1917 graduate of the U.S. 
Military Academy, served with the War Plans Divi- 
sion of the War Department from 1939 to 1942. He 
then became assistant division commander of the 82d 
Division at its activation in March 1942 and com- 
mander three months later. When that division was 
reorganized as the 82d Airborne Division he con- 
tinued to command and led it in the Sicilian and 
Italian campaigns. 



ping west of the river, were to consolidate 
the two 505th bridgeheads and push out 
a defensive line about three miles west- 
ward, anchored oh the south at the cross- 
roads just west of Pont l'Abbe and thence 
extending north in an arc through Beau- 
vais. The 507th Parachute Infantry would 
defend the line of the Douve, destroying 
bridges at Pont l'Abbe and Beuzeville-la- 
Bastille. Both regiments would be pre- 
pared to attack west in the direction of St. 
Sauveur-le Vicomte. 

Only one of the 82d Airborne Divi- 
sion's missions was carried out according 
to plan: the capture of Ste. Mere-Eglise. 
Success at Ste. Mere-Eglise was due in part 
to the exceptionally good drop of the 
505th Parachute Infantry northwest of 
the city. | (Map 7X)| Most of the regiment's 
planes, though initially scattered like the 
others, were able to circle back and re- 
lease the paratroopers over the drop zone 
which pathfinders had clearly marked. In 
addition the regiment had the good for- 
tune to come down in an area devoid of 
enemy. The 3d Battalion (Lt. Col. Ed- 
ward C. Krause), which was to take the 
town of Ste. Mere-Eglise, rapidly assem- 
bled about a quarter of its men and moved 
out in the early morning hours. Counting 
on speed and surprise, Colonel Krause or- 
dered his men to enter the town without 
a house-to-house search and to use only 
knives, bayonets, and grenades while it 
was still dark so that enemy gunfire could 
be spotted. The enemy was caught off 
balance and before dawn the town had 
fallen— the first prize for American arms 
in the liberation of France. Resistance 
had been slight: when Ste. Mere-Eglise 
was cleared Krause's men counted only 
ten enemy dead and about thirty prison- 
ers. The battalion cut the main Cher- 



290 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



bourg communications cable and estab- 
lished a perimeter defense of the town. 

The 2d Battalion, 505th Parachute In- 
fantry (Lt. Col. Benjamin H. Vander- 
voort), in the meantime had assembled 
half of its men and was moving northward 
to establish the regimental defense line 
thro ugh Neuville-au-P lain and Bandien- 
ville. {(See Map VII. )\ At 0930 the enemy 
counterattacked Ste. Mere-Eglise from 
the south and the regimental commander, 
Col. William E. Ekman, ordered his 2d 
Battalion back to aid in the defense. Be- 
fore turning back Colonel Vandervoort 
detached a platoon under Lt. Turner B. 
Turnbull and sent it to organize a de- 
fense at Neuville which was reported to 
be lightly held by the enemy. Turnbull 
moved through the town without opposi- 
tion and deployed his men on the high 
ground north of the town. He was hardly 
in position before the enemy attacked 
with a force outnumbering the defenders 
about five to one. The platoon fought 
stubbornly and for eight hours held its 
ground. The small action had a signifi- 
cance which Turnbull did not realize at 
the time. The fight at Neuville kept the 
enemy in the north at arm's length while 
the defenders of Ste. Mere-Eglise beat off 
the simultaneous enemy attack from the 
south. The cost of the platoon's gallant 
stand was heavy. Only sixteen of the forty- 
two men who had gone to Neuville-au- 
Plain survived to be withdrawn late in 
the afternoon to rejoin their battalion. 

In Ste. Mere-Eglise the 2d Battalion of 
the 505th on its arrival at about 1000 took 
over the northern half of the perimeter 
defense, permitting the 3d Battalion to 
strengthen its position on the south. Two 
companies were held in reserve inside the 
town. By agreement between the bat- 



talion commanders, Colonel Krause took 
charge of the defense. The first enemy 
thrust up the Carentan road, made in 
strength of about two companies sup- 
ported by some armor, was repulsed. 
Krause then ordered a counterattack. 
Company I with eighty men was in- 
structed to move out south, turn east, and 
hit the dank of the enemy, whose main po- 
sitions were astride the highway. The at- 
tack, however, hit only a single enemy 
convoy moving southward. Having de- 
stroyed the convoy with grenades, Com- 
pany I returned to Ste. Mere-Eglise. The 
enemy made no further serious effort dur- 
ing the day to dislodge the Americans. 38 

The prompt occupation of Ste. Mere- 
Eglise and its defense were a boon for 
which the 82d Airborne Division had in- 
creasing reason to be grateful as the day's 
actions along the Merderet River de- 
veloped. The establishment of bridge- 
heads over the Merderet was the mission 
of the 1st Battalion of the 505 th Parachute 
Infantry, attacking from the regiment's 
drop zone east of the river. Ultimate suc- 
cess in this mission, however, depended 
on the ability of the 507th and 508th Para- 
chute Infantry Regiments to occupy the 
west bank of the river in force. The 507 th 
and 508th drop zones lay in the triangle 
at the confluence of the Douve and Mer- 
deret Rivers— an area of about twelve 
square miles— and along the outer perim- 
eter of the VII Corps planned beachhead. 
Presence of the enemy in the scheduled 
drop zones prevented the pathfinders 
from marking them, and the pilots of the 
two regimental serials, looking in vain 
for the markers, in most cases delayed 

39 For extraordinary heroism in the capture and 
defense of Ste. Mere-Eglise Colonels Krause and 
Vandervoort were awarded the DSC. 



THE SIXTH OF JUNE 



291 



flashing the jump lights until they had 
overshot the zones. Both regiments were 
thus widely dispersed and many para- 
troopers, heavily laden with equipment, 
dropped in the swamplands along the 
river. 

Absorbed naturally with the basic prob- 
lem of assembling, these paratroopers 
tended to collect along the embankment 
of the main railroad from Cherbourg to 
Carentan, both because it was high dry 
ground and because it was a recognizable 
terrain feature. By following this embank- 
ment south, they crossed the river and ar- 
rived in the vicinity of la Fiere with the 
river between them and their objectives. 
The only large group which, under com- 
mand of Brig. Gen. James A. Gavin, As- 
sistant Division Commander, tried to 
push down along the edge of the swamps 
on the west bank of the river was delayed 
in starting until dawn by vain efforts to re- 
cover equipment from the swamps. With 
daylight, enemy fire west of the river be- 
came intense. Gavin therefore had to give 
up the attempt and moved his men on 
down the embankment to join the others 
west of Ste. Mere-Eglise. 40 

By the middle of the morning 500 to 
600 men of miscellaneous units had 
gathered at la Fiere, which was one of the 
two known crossings of the Merderet in 
the 82d Airborne Division zone. The la 
Fiere crossing was an exposed narrow 
causeway raised a few feet above the river 
flats and extending 400 to 500 yards from 
the bridge over the main river channel to 

40 General Gavin, a graduate of West Point in 
1929, took command of the 505th Parachute In- 
fantry in July 1942 and led that regiment into com- 
bat in Sicily a year later. He commanded the same 
regiment in the parachute landing on Salerno Bay in 
September 1943 and the following month became as- 
sistant division commander. 



the gently rising hedgerow country of the 
west shore. 

Two of the first groups on the scene, 
portions of Company A of the 505th and 
a group mostly of the 507th Parachute In- 
fantry under Lt. John H. Wisner, had 
tried to rush the bridge in the early morn- 
ing but were repulsed by machine gun 
fire. When General Gavin arrived, he de- 
cided to split the la Fiere force and sent 
seventy-five men south to reconnoiter an- 
other crossing. Later, receiving word that 
the bridge at Chef-du-Pont was unde- 
fended, he took another seventy-five men 
himself to try to get across there. The 
groups remaining at la Fiere made no 
progress for several hours. Then General 
Ridgway, who had landed by parachute 
with the 505th, ordered Col. Roy Lind- 
quist, the commanding officer of the 
508th Parachute Infantry, to organize the 
miscellaneous groups and take the 
bridge. 41 

In the meantime west of the river about 
fifty men of the 2d Battalion, 507th Para- 
chute Infantry, had collected under the 
battalion commander, Lt. Col. Charles J. 
Timmes. Shortly after the drop, Timmes 
had passed through Cauquigny, the tiny 
village at the west end of the la Fiere 
causeway. But he did not stay. Hearing 
firing in the direction of Amfreville, he 
reckoned that paratroopers were attack- 
ing the village from the north and decided 
to support the attack by advance from the 
east. His estimate proved wrong; the 
enemy firing was actually directed against 
his own group. Unable to proceed toward 
the village Timmes withdrew his men to a 

41 By the original plan Ridgway was supposed to 
come in by glider just before dawn, but this was 
changed a few days before D Day. See Ltr, Ridgway 
to Maj Gen Harry J. Malony, 12 Nov 48. Hist Div 
files. 



292 



CROSS CHANNEL ATTACK 



position along the river east of Amfre- 
ville and began to dig in. When the posi- 
tion was organized about midmorning, he 
sent a patrol of ten men back to Cauqui- 
gny to establish a fire position to dominate 
the west end of the la Fiere causeway. The 
patrol set up a machine gun in the 
Caucjuigny church, and awaited develop- 
ments. 42 

At noon the forces around la Fiere 
gathered for a co-ordinated three-com- 
pany attack. In two hours one company 
under Capt. F. V. Schwarzwalder suc- 
ceeded in carrying the attack across the 
causeway, and established contact with 
Timmes' patrol. The way was then open 
to consolidating the bridgehead and com- 
pleting one of the most important of the 
82d Airborne Division's missions. The 
initial success, however, was not followed 
up. Probably because it was difficult in 
the hedgerow country for any unit to tell 
quickly what was going on beyond its im- 
mediate limited observation, the first 
crossing by about seventy-five men was 
not immediately reinforced. Furthermore 
Schwarzwalder's company, instead of 
holding on the west bank, decided to pro- 
ceed on to Amfreville to join the 2d Bat- 
talion, 507th Parachute Infantry, to 
which most of the men belonged. As 
Schwarzwalder moved out, the enemy 
began to react to the initial American at- 
tack with artillery, small arms fire, and at 
last a tank sally. 43 It was in the middle of 
this counterattack that belated American 
reinforcements arrived on the west bank 
and were immediately disorganized and 

42 See S. L. A. Marshall, La Fit-re Bridgehead, 
mimeo MS. Hist Div files. The account in Ruppen- 
thal, Utah Beach, p. 38, differs slightly. 

43 Undoubtedly units of the 100th Panzer Replace- 
ment Battalion equipped with light Russian and 
French tanks. 



beaten back. The bridge was lost. Colonel 
Timmes' group east of Amfreville rein- 
forced by Schwarzwalder's company was 
isolated under heavy and continuing 
enemy pressure which effectively pre- 
vented it for the next two days from any 
further active attempts at accomplishing 
the division's mission. The enemy tried 
to follow up his advantage with attacks 
across the causeway. These netted him 
only temporary footholds on the east bank 
but during the day compelled the Ameri- 
cans to bring back most of the troops sent 
earlier to probe out crossings of the river 
to the south. 

While the la Fiere bridge was won and 
lost, the attempt to cross at Chef-du- 
Pont about two miles south had reached 
a temporary deadlock, as a relatively 
small number of Germans dug in along 
the causeway tenaciously resisted all ef- 
forts to dislodge them. 44 Late in the after- 
noon, after most of the paratroopers had 
been recalled to strengthen the la Fiere 
position, the understrength platoon left 
at Chef-du-Pont under Capt. Roy E. 
Creek was threatened with annihilation 
by an enemy counterattack. Under heavy 
direct fire from a field piece on the op- 
posite bank and threatened by German 
infantry forming for attack on the south, 
Creek's position seemed desperate. At that 
moment a glider bearing an antitank gun 
landed fortuitously in the area. With this 
gun the enemy was held off while about a 
hundred paratroopers, in response to 
Creek's plea for reinforcements, came 
down from la Fiere. The reinforcements 
gave Creek strength enough to beat off 

44 Their tenacity may in part have been caused by 
the shooting on two occasions of enemy soldiers who 
stood up apparently with the idea of surrendering. 
See Marshall, La Fiere Bridgehead. 



THE SIXTH OF JUNE 



293 



the Germans, clear the east bank, and 
finally cross the river and dig in. This po- 
sition, however, did not amount to a 
bridgehead and Creek's tenuous hold on 
the west end of the causeway would have 
meant little but for the action of the 508th 
Parachute Infantry west of the river. 

Elements of the 508th, amounting to 
about two companies of men under com- 
mand of Lt. Col. Thomas J. B. Shanley, 
commanding officer of the 2d Battalion, 
were the most important of at least four 
groups of paratroopers who assembled 
west of the Merderet but who for the most 
part, being forced to fight for survival, 
could contribute little toward carrying 
out planned missions. Dropped near 
Picauville, Colonel Shanley gathered a 
small force of paratroopers— too small to 
proceed with his mission of destroying the 
Douve bridge at Pont l'Abbe. He tried 
during the day to join other groups in the 
vicinity with whom he had radio contact, 
but under constant enemy pressure he was 
unable to effect a junction until late in 
the day. It had then become apparent to 
him that he was engaged with an enemy 
force of at least battalion strength, and he 
decided to withdraw to the battalion as- 
sembly area on Hill 30. In fact, the Ger- 
mans, elements of the 1057th Regiment, 
had been pushing eastward in this area 
most of the day under orders to counter- 
attack in order to wipe out American 
parachutists west of the Merderet. Colo- 
nel Shanley's resistance undoubtedly 
helped save the forces at la Fiere and Chef- 
du-Pont. Once he was firmly established 
on Hill 30, he formed a valuable outpost 
against continuing German attacks and 
a few days later would be in position to 
contribute substantially to establishing 
the Merderet bridgehead. For Colonel 



Shanley's success three enlisted men have 
received a large share of the credit. They 
were Cpl. Ernest T. Roberts, Pvt. Otto 
K. Zwingman, and Pvt. John A. Lock- 
wood who, while on outpost duty in 
buildings at Haut Gueutteville, observed 
the forming of a German counterattack 
by an estimated battalion of infantry with 
tank support. They stayed at their posts 
holding off the enemy attack for two 
hours and allowing the main body of 
Shanley's force to establish an all-around 
defense at Hill 30. 45 

As reports of the airborne landings 
came in to the German Seventh Army 
headquarters and the extent of the land- 
ings became apparent, General Dollmann 
ordered a series of moves design ed to seal 
off the airhead and destroy it. \[Map 2)j 
The 709th Division with the 1058th Regi- 
ment (91st Division) attached was or- 
dered to clear the area east of the Mer- 
deret. 46 At the same time the 91st Division 
counterattacked from the west using the 
1057th Regiment and the 100th Panzer 
Replacement Battalion in an attempt to 
wipe out paratroopers who had landed 
west of the inundated area. The 6th Para- 
chute Regiment under control of the 91st 
Division was to attack through Carentan 
from the south. 47 Finally at the end of the 



45 All three were captured. Pvt Zwingman was 
killed in December 1944 while still a prisoner. The 
three men were awarded DSC's. 

46 Seventh Army KTB 1.I.-30.VI.44, 6 Jun 44. 
Schlieben denies that the 1058th Regiment was at- 
tached to his division and in fact the regiment's ac- 
tion on D Day does not seem to have been directed 
at first by the 709th Division. MS # B-845 (Schlie- 
ben) . 

47 Again the subordination ordered by Seventh 
Army was apparently not effected. Von der Heydte 
directed the operations of his regiment without any 
orders from the 91st Division. MS # B-839 (von der 
Heydte) . 



TO PONT L' ABBE GUEUTTEVILLE HILL 30 AREA. 




MERDERET RIVER CROSSING at Chef-du-Pont. Village of les Merieux is in 
lower right-hand corner of picture. 



CAPONNHT 



TO CHEF-DU-PONT 



LA FIERE BRIDGE 




THE SIXTH OF JUNE 



297 



day the Seventh Army Sturm Battalion 
was ordered to move against the American 
bridgehead from the vicinity of Cher- 
bourg, attacking in the direction of Ste. 
Mere-Eglise. A regiment of the 243d Di- 
vision was ordered to move by night to 
Montebourg. 48 By means of these moves 
and concentric counterattacks Dollmann 
was sure at first that he could cope with 
the Cotentin landings without moving in 
any additional forces. It was only in the 
evening that his optimism waned, as the 
91st Division reported that its counter- 
attack was making very slow progress be- 
cause of the difficulties of maneuvering 
in the hedgerow country. In fact the at- 
tack had scarcely materialized at all except 
in local actions along the Merderet. 

Similarly the 1058th Regiment, appar- 
ently harassed by scattered American 
paratroopers, could not get moving in its 
attack toward Ste. Mere-Eglise. By eve- 
ning its advance elements were still north 
of Neuville-au-Plain. Generalleutnant 
Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieben, commander 
of the 709th Division, ordered it to re- 
sume the attack on Ste. Mere-Eglise the 
next morning. He attached to it two mo- 
torized heavy artillery battalions, the 
456th and 457 th (each with two 150-mm. 
guns and a battery of Russian 122-mm. 
guns), and the company of self-propelled 
guns of the 709th Antitank Battalion.™ 

For the general sluggishness of German 
reaction in the Cotentin, there seem to be 
several explanations. In the first place two 
of the three division commanders, von 
Schlieben and Generalleutnant Wilhelm 

48 The regiment, nominally the 922d, contained 
a battalion of the 922d, a battalion of the 920th, and 
the division's Engineer Battalion. MS # B-845 
(Schlieben) . 

49 MS # B-845 (Schlieben) ; MS # B-260 (Trie- 
pel) . 



Falley (of the 91st Division), together 
with some of the subordinate command- 
ers, were at Rennes attending a war game 
when the invasion struck. Schlieben did 
not get back to his headquarters near 
Valognes until noon. Falley on his return 
was killed by paratroopers. To the un- 
certainty caused by the commanders' ab- 
sence was added the confusion of dis- 
rupted communications. Von Schlieben, 
for instance, during the day had no con- 
tact with two of his battalions in the thick 
of the fighting, the 1st Battalion, 919th 
Regiment, in the utah Beach area, and 
the 795th Georgian Battalion near 
Turqueville. In attempting counterat- 
tacks against scattered U.S. riflemen the 
Germans experienced the same difficulties 
with the hedgerow country that the 
Americans did. Finally the LXXXIV 
Corps headquarters, far away in St. L6, 
could not exercise effective control and 
co-ordinate the action of the three divi- 
sions in the peninsula. On the other hand 
communications were not set up to enable 
the division commanders to effect their 
own co-ordination. 50 

The experience of the 6th Parachute 
Regiment illustrates in striking fashion 
the confusion and lack of co-ordination 
in the initial German reactions and 
throws a strange half-light on the D-Day 
battles in the Cotentin. The commander 
of the regiment, Major Friedrich-August 
Freiherr von der Heydte, was at his com- 
mand post north of Periers when the Al- 
lied landings began. But telephone lines 
to the 91st Division and to LXXXIV 
Corps were broken during the night by 
open action of the French Resistance. It 
was not until about 0600 that von der 



80 MS # B-845 (Schlieben) . 



298 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



Heydte was able to reach General Marcks 
at LXXXIV Corps headquarters by a 
private line and get his orders, which were 
to attack with his regiment through 
Carentan and clean out the rear area of 
the 709th Division between Carentan and 
Ste. Mere-Eglise. Von der Heydte arrived 
in Carentan in the morning and found 
no Allied troops and very few Germans. 
He got in touch with his battalions and 
ordered them to assemble southwest of 
Carentan. He then climbed the church 
steeple in St. Come and looked around. 
The picture before him was, he said, 
overwhelming. He could see the Channel 
and the armada of Allied ships, covering 
the water to the horizon. He could see 
hundreds of small landing craft plying to 
the shore unloading men and tanks and 
equipment. Yet, for all that, he got no im- 
pression of a great battle in progress. It 
was then about noon. The sun was shin- 
ing. Except for a few rifle shots now and 
then it was singularly quiet. He could see 
no Allied troops. The whole scene re- 
minded him of a summer's day on the 
Wannsee. 51 

It was apparently his impression that 
no seaborne U.S. troops had come inland 
in the direction of St. Come. In accord- 
ance with that impression he made his dis- 
positions. He ordered his battalions to 
come up to St. Come; the 2d Battalion 
was then instructed to proceed to Ste. 
Mere-Eglise and attack and destroy any 
enemy encountered. The 1st Battalion 
was to move to the high ground near Ste. 
Marie-du-Mont and protect the regiment 
from any enemy thrusts inland from the 



51 This paragraph and the following two are from 
von der Heydte's report, MS # B-839. The Wannsee 
is a lake near Berlin, a favorite place for Berliners 
to spend a Sunday. 



sea. The 3d Battalion was to return to 
Carentan to provide the regiment with a 
defense in depth, and the attached 3d Bat- 
talion, 1058th Regiment, was to remain 
with von der Heydte in St. Come-du- 
Mont. The 1st and 2d Battalions moved 
out at about 1900. By midnight the 1st 
Battalion had marched apparently with- 
out serious trouble through the territory 
occupied by the 101st Airborne Division 
and reached the vicinity of Ste. Marie-du- 
Mont. The 2d Battalion moved north and 
possibly reached the vicinity of Fauville. 
Both battalions sent a number of Ameri- 
can prisoners back to the regimental head- 
quarters. 

During the night the landing of U.S. 
glider reinforcements impressed von der 
Heydte as new large-scale airborne land- 
ings. They cut off the 2d Battalion from 
the regiment and from the 1st Battalion. 
(In reality, both battalions were already 
cut off by the advance of the 8th Infantry 
inland, but this development was ap- 
parently unknown to von der Heydte.) 
He ordered the battalions to maintain 
contact with each other and pull back to 
form a crescent defense of St. Come. Only 
the 2d Battalion acknowledged receipt of 
the order and reported that it was not in 
touch with the 1st Battalion. As for the 
1st Battalion, it set out on the morning of 
7 June to rejoin the regiment, moving 
south toward Carentan. It never got there, 
for at the Douve River it ran into the 
101st Airborne Division units and sur- 
rendered almost to a man. 52 

The experience of the 6th Parachute 
Regiment was typical of the inability of 
the German forces to concentrate against 
the landings, even when, as in the case of 



62 See below, Ch. IX. 



300 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



the 82d Airborne Division, they were 
scattered and relatively weak. Thanks to 
this failure, the 82d was able to maintain 
itself while it gradually built back its 
strength. At the end of D Day, the divi- 
sion was strongly ensconced in the vicin- 
ity of Ste. Mere-Eglise but was precari- 
ously situated outside the main VII Corps 
beachhead. It had no contact with the 
101st Airborne or 4th Infantry Divisions. 
It had assembled only a fraction of its own 
men. Planned seaborne reinforcements 
had not arrived. The bulk of the glider re- 
inforcements (the 325th Glider Infantry) 
were not due until the next morning. At 
the end of the day, the division reported 
that it controlled only 40 percent of its 
combat infantry and 10 percent of its ar- 
tillery. 03 The first estimate sent on to VII 
Corps indicated total casualties of about 
four thousand. 54 The bulk of these, how- 
ever, were the missing paratroopers scat- 
tered far and wide in enemy territory. Re- 
vised calculations in August 1944 showed 
D-Day losses of 1,259 including 156 
known killed and 756 missing, presumed 
captured or killed. 55 

Hitting the Beaches 

While U.S. airborne troops dropped on 
the Cotentin and British paratroopers 
landed near Caen, the invasion fleet was 
bringing the main body of the Allied 
armies to the shores of Normandy. The 
assault convoys, after turning back for the 



53 82d Div AAR. At noon, 8 June, the division re- 
ported still only 2,100 effectives — or less than a third 
of its combat strength. 

54 See Phantom Intercept in 21 A Gp Sitrep 4. 
SHAEF G-l file 704/6, 21 A Gp Casualty Rpts, Vol. I. 

55 32d MRU Rpt, Analysis of Battle Casualty Re- 
ports received from 82d Airborne Division, 13 Aug 
44. FUSA file CC 21, dr 4, item 704. 



day's postponement, reassembled during 
the morning of 5 June and sailed again 
for the transport areas 22,000 to 23,000 
yards off the French coast in the Bay of the 
Seine. Behind mine sweepers which 
cleared and marked ten lanes through 
old enemy mine fields in the Channel, the 
huge convoys, under constant air um- 
brella of fighter squadrons flying at 3,000 
to 5,000 feet, made an uneventful voyage 
unmolested by the enemy either by air or 
sea. 56 H Hour for U. S. beaches was 0630. 

The weather was still cause for concern. 
During the passage a gusty wind blowing 
from the west at fifteen to twenty knots 
produced a moderately choppy sea with 
waves in mid-Channel of from five to six 
feet in height. This was a heavy sea for 
the small craft, which had some difficulty 
in making way. Even in the assault area it 
was rough for shallow-draft vessels, 
though there the wind did not exceed fif- 
teen knots and the waves averaged about 
three feet. Visibility was eight miles with 
ceiling at 10,000 to 12,000 feet. Scat- 
tered clouds from 3,000 to 7,000 feet cov- 
ered about half the sky over the Channel 
at H Hour becoming denser farther in- 
land. Conditions in short were difficult 
though tolerable for both naval and air 
forces. 57 

Most serious were the limitations on air 
operations. Heavy bombers assigned to hit 
the coastal fortifications at omaha Beach 
had to bomb by instruments through the 
overcast. With concurrence of General 
Eisenhower the Eighth Air Force ordered 
a deliberate delay of several seconds in its 
release of bombs in order to insure that 
they were not dropped among the assault 
craft. The result was that the 13,000 

5 « ANCXF Report, Vol. Ill, Annex D, p. 44. 
67 Prov Eng Spec Brig AAR. 



THE SIXTH OF JUNE 



301 



bombs dropped by 329 B-24 bombers did 
not hit the enemy beach and coast de- 
fenses at all but were scattered as far as 
three miles inland. Medium bombers 
visually bombing utah Beach defenses 
from a lower altitude had slightly better 
results, although about a third of all 
bombs fell seaward of the high-water 
mark and many of the selected targets 
were not located by pilots. Of 360 bomb- 
ers dispatched by IX Bomber Command, 
293 attacked utah Beach defenses and 67 
failed to release their bombs because of 
the overcast. On the whole the bombing 
achieved little in neutralizing the coastal 
fortifications. 

At about 0230 the Bayfield, headquar- 
ters ship for Task Force U (Rear Adm. 
Don P. Moon) and VII Corps (Maj. Gen. 
J. Lawton Collins), dropped anchor in the 
transport area off utah Beach. Twenty 
minutes later the Ancon, flagship of Ad- 
miral Hall and headquarters ship for 
Task Force O and V Corps, reached the 
omaha Beach transport area. Unloading 
of assault troops into the LCVP's that 
would take them to the beaches began. 

Up to this point there had been vir- 
tually no enemy reaction. The German 
radar stations still in operation had failed 
to pick up either the air or the sea ap- 
proach. Because of bad weather Admiral 
Krancke had no patrol boats in the Chan- 
nel during the night, nor did he order 
them out after he heard of the airborne 
landings. Tidal conditions would not per- 
mit them to leave the harbors before day- 
light and, besides, Krancke was still not 
sure that a major attack was in progress. 
Shortly after three o'clock, however, 
Naval Commander Normandy reported 
sighting ten large craft lying some seven 
miles off the coast north of Port-en-Bes- 



sin. This news, in conjunction with an in- 
creasingly sharp definition of the extent 
of the airborne landings, at last convinced 
Admiral Krancke that he was confronting 
a large-scale landing. He gave such orders 
as he could. The Western Defense Forces 
were to patrol the coastal waters; the 
Landwirt submarines were to be alerted; 
the 8th Destroyer Flotilla was to move up 
from Royan to Brest; the 5th Torpedo 
Boat Flotilla was to reconnoiter the Orne 
estuary area; and the 9th Torpedo Boat 
Flotilla was to patrol off Cap de la Hague. 
The torpedo boats of the 5th Flotilla left 
Le Havre at 0430, but an hour out of port 
they met six Allied warships escorted by 
1 5 to 20 destroyers. After firing torpedoes 
at the Allied vessels, the small German 
boats were attacked from the air. They 
succeeded in driving off the attackers with 
antiaircraft fire, but then had to return to 
Le Havre to replenish their load of tor- 
pedoes and ammunition. Two torpedo 
boat flotillas reconnoitering out of Cher- 
bourg were forced by heavy seas to return 
to port at dawn. This virtually concluded 
German naval activity for the day. Ad- 
miral Krancke wrote in his diary: "It was 
only to be expected that no effective blow 
could be struck at such a superior enemy 
force." 58 He made plans, however, to at- 
tack the Allied fleet that night. 

German coastal batteries began spo- 
radic firing at 0535, or only fifteen min- 
utes before Allied naval bombardment 
opened prearranged counterbattery fire. 
Projectiles from Allied battleships and 
cruisers and destroyers continued to thun- 
der over the heads of the troops making 
the final run-in to shore until a few min- 
utes before the touchdown. Beach drench- 

68 Marinegruppenkommando West, KTB 1.-7. VI- 
44, 6 Jun 44. 



302 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



ing was then taken up by the close-support 
craft. Although the time schedule went 
generally according to plan on both 
American beaches, the volume of fire 
laid down on vital targets was consider- 
ably less at omaha than expected. Most 
enemy coastal defenses were sited to cover 
the beaches rather than the sea ap- 
proaches. They were therefore well con- 
cealed from observation from the sea and 
were correspondingly difficult to hit. The 
beach drenching seems generally to have 
missed its targets; a large percentage of 
the rockets overshot their marks. 59 

Naval gunfire coupled with the air 
bombardment, however, had one impor- 
tant effect at omaha Beach which was not 
at first apparent to the assaulting troops. 
The Germans credit the Allied bombard- 
ment with having detonated large mine 
field areas on which they counted heavily 
to bar the attackers from penetrating in- 
land between the infantry strong points. 
Preparatory fire seems also to have 
knocked out many of the defending rocket 
pits. But it was supporting naval gunfire 
after H Hour which made the substantial 
contribution to the battle, in neutralizing 
key strong points, breaking up counter- 
attacks, wearing down the defenders, and 
dominating the assault area. 

In the VII Corps zone the 4th Division 
(Maj. Gen. Raymond O. Barton) 60 
planned to land in column of regiments 
on a two-battalion front of about 2,200 

59 Notes by Col B. B. Talley, Asst CofS, V Corps. 
Hist Div files. Talley also says the rocket-carrying 
LST's did not come up on line and consequently 
did not fire their rockets simultaneously as planned. 

60 General Barton had been chief of staff at head- 
quarters of the 4th Division in 1940. In June 1942 
he took command of the 4th Motorized Division, 
which subsequently became the 4th Infantry Divi- 
sion, and in January of 1944 arrived with his unit in 
the European theater. 



yards. The 8th Infantry (Col. James A. 
Van Fleet), with the 3d Battalion of the 
22d Infantry attached, would make the 
initial assault. It would first occupy the 
high ground along the road between Ste. 
Marie-du-Mont and les Forges and would 
be prepared to move with the bulk of its 
force thereafter westward across the Mer- 
deret River in the zone of the 82d Air- 
borne Division. One battalion would be 
left in the area west of St. Martin to pro- 
tect the division's north flank until the 
arrival of the 22d Infantry. The 22d In- 
fantry (Col. Hervey A. Tribolet), next 
infantry unit to land, beginning at H 
plus 85 minutes, would turn north from 
the beaches to seize the causeway across 
the inundations at les Dunes de Varre- 
ville. Continuing the push northwest, the 
regiment would capture Quineville and 
occupy the high ground at Quineville 
and Fontenay-sur-Mer. In the center of 
the beachhead the 12th Infantry (Col. 
Russell P. Reeder), landing after H plus 
4 hours, would advance with two bat- 
talions abreast to seize the high ground 
between Emondeville and the Merderet 
River. One battalion of the regiment was 
at first designated as division reserve to 
pass to division control in the vicinity of 
Turqueville. By the late May change of 
plan, following the alteration of the air- 
borne missions, the battalion was instead 
released to regimental control and the 
12th Infantry was assigned the additional 
mission of seizing a crossing over the Mer- 
deret at le Port Brehay just southwest of 
the regiment's main objective area. One 
regiment (the 359th Infantry) of the 90th 
Division, the first follow-up division, was 
attached to the 4th Division to begin land- 
ing on D Day. 61 It would assemble in re- 
61 4th Div FO 1, 12 May 44. 




TROOPS ON UTAH BEACH, The troops wading ashore (above) were photo- 
graphed shortly after H Hour, Note DD tanks on beach. Soldiers (below) take 
skelter behind sea wall while awaiting orders to move inland. 




304 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



serve near Foucarville. In May, enemy ac- 
tivity was observed on the St. Marcouf 
Islands flanking utah Beach on the north. 
It was therefore decided to land detach- 
ments of the 4th and 24th Cavalry Squad- 
rons two hours before H Hour to clean 
out what was suspected to be an enemy 
observation post or mine field control 
point. 

The airborne troops had done their job 
well and the 4th Division therefore had 
little difficulty getting ashore. The cavalry 
detachments (132 men) found the St. 
Marcouf Islands unoccupied though 
heavily mined. From mines and a concen- 
tration of enemy artillery that hit the 
islands in the afternoon the cavalry units 
lost two men killed and seventeen 
wounded. 62 The small craft (LCVP's) 
carrying the first waves of the 1st and 2d 
Battalions of the 8th Infantry were 
launched in relatively sheltered water and 
had no serious trouble with the wind and 
surf. At H Hour there was no enemy op- 
position. The thirty-two DD tanks sup- 
posed to land in the first wave w y ere de- 
layed by the loss of a control vessel that 
struck a mine. All but four, which were 
lost when the LCT carrying them hit a 
mine, were beached approximately fif- 
teen minutes late. But, as it turned out, 
the assault troops had no immediate need 
for them. 

Leading elements of the two assault bat- 
talions touched down approximately on 
time but almost 2,000 yards south of 
where they were supposed to land. The 
error was probably caused in part by the 
obscuring of landmarks by smoke and 
dust raised by the naval bombardment 
and in part by the southeast coastal cur- 



62 4th Cav Gp AAR. 



rent. In any case it turned out to be for- 
tunate since it brought troops in on 
beaches much less heavily defended than 
those designated in the plan. Although 
the mislanding meant that the tasks as- 
signed to each assault section could not be 
carried out as planned, the lack of serious 
enemy opposition permitted reconnais- 
sance and speedy reorganization for im- 
provised maneuver. 63 After company-size 
task forces had reduced the very lightly 
defended field fortifications covering the 
two middle beach exits, both assault bat- 
talions began their advance across the 
flooded area. The 1st crossed toward Au- 
douville-la-Hubert; the 2d turn ed sou th 
to pick up the Pouppeville road. \(Map 3) 
The first infantry wave was followed by 
engineer and naval demolition parties to 
clear the underwater obstacles. The ob- 
stacles were all dealt with dryshod and 
were so much sparser than expected that 
the original plan of blowing fifty-foot 
gaps was abandoned in favor of clearing 
the entire beach on the first tide. The job 
was completed in an hour. Engineers 
then proceeded to their next tasks of 
blowing gaps in the sea wall behind the 
beach and clearing mine fields. Enemy 
opposition consisted only of intermittent 
shelling. 

While engineers worked on the beach, 
the 3d Battalion, 8th Infantry, supported 
by tanks of the 70th Tank Battalion, and 
the 3d Battalion, 22d Infantry, were land- 
ing and moving out. Well before H plus 
3 hours the beach area had been cleared 
and landings were virtually routine, har- 
assed only by sporadic enemy artillery fire. 

63 Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, assistant division 
commander, who went ashore with the first wave and 
helped organize the attack inland, was awarded the 
Medal of Honor for gallantry displayed in his leader- 
ship under fire. 



THE SIXTH OF JUNE 



305 




MAP 3 



Early success and extraordinarily light 
casualties on utah Beach contrasted 
sharply with the difficulties experienced 
during those first critical three hours at 
omaha. The German LXXXIV Corps 
and Seventh Army believed through most 
of D Day that the omaha assault had been 
stopped at the water's edge. It was late in 
the morning before General Bradley 
aboard the Augusta could have contra- 



dicted that view and much longer before 
the Allied command could feel secure 
about the V Corps beachhead. 64 

Leading the attack of General Gerow's 
V Corps was the 1st Division (Maj. Gen. 
Clarence R. Huebner) assaulting with 
two regiments abreast, the 1 16th Infantry 
(attached from the 29th Division) on the 



64 First Army G~3 Jnl. 



STE MARIE-Dt'-MONT 



EXIT 2 



DOUVE RIVER 




AERIAL VIEW OF UTAH BEACH ON D-DAY MORNING. 



MERDERET RIVER EXIT 3 STE MERE-EGLISE 




308 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



right, the 16th Infantry on the left. 65 
Each regiment was to land two battalion 
landing teams at H Hour with initial mis- 
sions to clear the beach defenses and seize 
and secure that portion of the beachhead 
maint enance line in their respective 
zones. \(Map X )| The beachhead main- 
tenance line roughly followed the ridge 
of high ground parallel to the main 
coastal road and was in most places from 
two to three miles inland. From this line 
the assault regiments, supported by the 
18th Infantry landing after H plus 3 
hours and the 26th Infantry landing on 
order of the Commanding General, V 
Corps, would punch out toward the D- 
Day phase line. Occupation of that phase 
line would mean securing a coastal strip 
five or six miles deep astride the Bayeux 
highway. 

The 1 16th Infantry was responsible for 
capturing the Pointe du Hoe coastal bat- 
tery. On the assumption that the six par- 
tially casemated 155-mm. guns would not 
have been destroyed by pre-D-Day bom- 

66 Maj. Gen. Leonard T. Gerow was graduated 
from the Virginia Military Institute in 1911. Between 
1920 and 1940 he was on four separate occasions as- 
signed to War Department staff duty: in the War 
Plans and Organization Section (1923-24) , in the of- 
fice of the Assistant Secretary of War (1926-29) , in 
the War Plans Division (1935-39) , and as Assistant 
Chief of Staff with duty in the War Plans Division 
(1940-41) . He commanded the 29th Division in 
1942 and took command of V Corps in July 1943. 

General Huebner enlisted in 1910 and was commis- 
sioned in the infantry in 1916. He went overseas as 
commander of a company of the 28th Infantry in 
1917 and served with the 1st Division at Luneville, 
Beaumont, Cantigny, and in the Aisne-Marne, St. 
Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives. He was twice 
wounded and received the DSC with cluster, the 
DSM, and Silver Star. In 1940 he was chief of the 
Training Branch of the Operations and Training 
Division of the War Department and in 1942 Di- 
rector of the Training Division, Headquarters SOS. 
In August 1943 he took command of the 1st Division 
in North Africa. 



bardment and the heavy naval fire di- 
rected on them just before H Hour, two 
Ranger battalions were attached to the 
116th Infantry with the special H-Hour 
mission of taking out the guns. Three 
companies of Rangers from the 2d 
Ranger Battalion were to land at the foot 
of the cliff which the fortified battery sur- 
mounted, scale the cliff by means of rope 
ladders, and attack the German position. 
Another company, landing on the 116th 
Infantry main beaches to the east, would 
attack the fortifications at Pointe et Raz 
de la Percee and then continue westward 
to cover the flank of the Ranger force at 
Pointe du Hoe. The rest of the Rangers 
would land at Pointe du Hoe, provided 
the initial landings succeeded; otherwise 
they would come in on the 1 16th beaches 
and assist the right battalion of the 1 16th 
in attacking westward. 

The whole right flank of the V Corps 
assault forces would thus swing due west 
almost immediately on landing while the 
left battalion of the 116th and the 16th 
Infantry pushed south. It was hoped to 
clear the coast as far as Isigny by the end 
of D Day. It even seemed possible that 
Isigny itself might fall either to the 1 16th 
or to the 1 15th Infantry. 66 The latter regi- 
ment, landing on corps order, would 
initially leapfrog the 116th to organize 
the high ground around Longueville. 

Perhaps the most important job as- 
signed to the first assault waves was the re- 
duction of enemy positions defending the 
roads leading from the beach inland. The 
gently sloping sand of omaha Beach was 
backed by an embankment of loose stones, 
or shingle, in places as much as fifteen 
yards wide. In the Vierville sector the 



66 See above, p. 187. 



THE SIXTH OF JUNE 



309 



shingle piled up against a part-masonry, 
part-wood sea wall. On the rest of the 
beach there was no wall, but the shingle 
lay against a sand embankment or dune 
line. Both the shingle and the dune line 
were impassable for vehicles. Behind the 
beach rose scrub-covered bluffs 100 to 170 
feet high of varying steepness and merg- 
ing east and west with the cliffs, which at 
Pointe et Raz de la Percee and east of 
Colleville marked the extremities of the 
7,000-yard crescent beach. The bluffs 
were cut by five draws. Through four of 
these ran unimproved roads, one connect- 
ing with the main coastal highway at Vier- 
ville-sur-Mer, two at St. Laurent, and one 
at Colleville. 67 The fifth draw northeast 
of Colleville was steep and contained only 
a trail, but it was considered capable of 
development as a vehicle exit. The plan 
assumed these exits would be open to 
traffic at least by H plus 2 hours when the 
heavy flow of vehicular reinforcements 
was scheduled to begin. The importance 
of the beach exits was, of course, as obvi- 
ous to the Germans as to the Allies and 
local coastal defenses were grouped to 
deny their use to the attackers. 68 On the 

07 The road that passes through les Moulins will 
be called hereafter the les Moulins Exit. The St. 
Laurent Exit will refer to the road immediately 
east which leads up the valley of the Ruguet River. 
Note that the towns of Vierville, St. Laurent, and 
Colleville in this sector all bear the suffixes "sur- 
Mer. " Only in the case of Vierville will the suffix 
be retained in order not to confuse it with the 
other Vierville in the utah Beach sector. 

08 German coastal defense works were of four 
classes depending on size and complexity. The small- 
est and most usual was the resistance nest (Wider- 
standsnest), a single self-contained defensive position 
manned by one or two squads sometimes though not 
necessarily with heavy weapons. When several re- 
sistance nests were combined for co-ordinated de- 
fense of a larger sector the defense was called a 
strong point (Stuetzpunkt) . Strong points in general 
were manned by at least a platoon of infantry with 



other hand, the 1st Division had precise 
information on the location of these de- 
fenses and every provision was made to 
give the assaulting infantry the heavy fire 
support needed to knock them out. |( Map\ 



At H minus 50 minutes, two companies 
of DD tanks (741st Tank Battalion) des- 
tined for the 16th Infantry beaches were 
launched 6,000 yards offshore and almost 
immediately began to founder. Of the 
thirty-two tanks launched only five 
reached shore. 69 These were the first of 
the casualties to the weather. There were 
others. The assaulting infantry was trans- 
ferred from transports to LCVP's ten to 
eleven miles offshore. At least ten of the 
ferrying craft were swamped on the way 
in. More serious for the operation was the 
sinking of much of the artillery. The at- 
tempt to ferry guns ashore in DUKW's 
through the heavy seas proved disastrous. 
All but one of the 105-mm. howitzers of 
the 111th Field Artillery Battalion were 



heavy weapons and a local reserve. Strong points 
might be grouped in a Stuetzpunktgruppe either for 
command unity or for defense of a small fortified 
area. None of these strong point groups existed in 
the invasion area. Finally, certain strategically im- 
portant places like ports, submarine pens, and 
mouths of large rivers were organized into defensive 
areas (Verteidigungsbereiche) garrisoned by units 
whose size was conditioned by the size and impor- 
tance of the area and the forces available. All had 
both local reserves within the defensive area and 
reserves in general support stationed outside. See 
Grundlegender Befehl des Oberbefehlshabers West 
Nr. 7, Begrifjsbestimmungen in der Kuestenvertei- 
digung, 28 May 42. OKW/WFSt, Op. (H.), Grund- 
legende Befehle West 28. IV. 42-7. V. 44. 

69 Three of the five were beached by an LCT 
which could not lower its ramp at sea. For details 
of the difficulties in the initial landings at omaha 
see [Charles H. Taylor] Omaha Beachhead (Wash- 
ington, 1945) . The narrative of U.S. V Corps opera- 
tions is largely based on Taylor's study. See Bibli- 
ographical Note. 



\ IERV1LLE AND DRAW 



EES MOULINS DRAW 



st Laurent dr 




AERIAL VIEW OF OMAHA BEACH ON I) PLUS 1. 

Note the five draws leading up from the beach. 



CQLLEV1LLE DRAW 



COLLEYILLE 



NUMBER 3 DRAW 





TERRAIN ON OMAHA BEACH. Bluffs west of Vierville Draw (lop). In distance 
is Pointe et Raz de la Percee. Concrete casemate in bluff is sited to cover beach. 
Hamel au Pretre (center) as seen from Vierville Draw. Les Moulins area (bottom) 
as seen from the east. 



THE SIXTH OF JUNE 



313 



sunk. Six of the 105's belonging to the 7th 
Field Artillery Battalion suffered the 
same fate. Five of the six howitzers of the 
1 6th Infantry Cannon Company were also 
swamped. In addition to these wholesale 
losses the 58th Armored Field Artillery 
Battalion, whose guns were mounted on 
LCT's and had taken part in the initial 
beach drenching, lost three of its pieces 
when the craft carrying them hit mines. 
In short, the artillery that was planned to 
support the infantry attack particularly in 
the advance inland did not reach the 
shore. 

The weather contributed also to navi- 
gational difficulties. Mist mixed with the 
smoke and dust raised by the naval bom- 
bardment obscured landmarks on the 
coast; in addition a lateral current of from 
two to three knots tended to carry craft 
eastward of their touchdown points. The 
actual errors in landing caused thereby 
were considerably less than at utah, in 
most cases amounting to not more than a 
few hundred yards. On the other hand, 
they proved much more serious for the 
tactical situation, partly because the 
errors were not constant, with the result 
that units became scattered on the final 
approach. Since the men had been briefed 
only for their particular areas, they were 
confused by the changed picture. The 
difficulties were compounded by the 
heavier enemy opposition which had the 
effect of isolating boat sections only a few 
hundred yards apart and at first made re- 
assembly and reorganization for impro- 
vised missions almost impossible. 

Naval gunfire had temporarily neutral- 
ized some of the enemy batteries and forti- 
fications but most of them were still able 
to fire at the incoming troops as soon as 
the bombardment was forced to lift in- 



land. The 1st Division men in the first 
LCVP's could hear machine gun bullets 
splatter against the steel ramps of their 
craft before they grounded. Debarking in 
water sometimes up to their necks, the 
troops on some sectors of the beach were 
met with a hail of bullets that drove some 
to seek shelter under the surf, others to 
scramble over the sides of the craft. Con- 
trol of boat sections was thus often lost 
before the men were even started in to 
the beach. The troops, overladen with 
heavy clothing and equipment, waded 
slowly through the surf and through fire 
that increased as they approached the 
beach. Some stopped to rest or seek shelter 
behind obstacles. Some lay at the water's 
edge and were able eventually to crawl 
in with the tide. But casualties generally 
were heavier among those who delayed in 
getting up onto the beach. Many of the 
wounded were drowned in the rising tide. 

The first wave should have landed nine 
companies evenly spaced along the beach. 
Because of withering enemy fire and mis- 
landings, however, the right wing all but 
disintegrated; two companies bunched in 
front of les Moulins, and the remainder 
of the landings (elements of four com- 
panies) clustered in the Colleville sector. 
One company was carried so far to the east 
that it landed an hour and a half late. 

The two right-flank companies (Com- 
pany C of the 2d Ranger Battalion, and 
Company A of the 1 1 6th Infantry) landed 
as scheduled in front of the Vierville 
draw. One craft foundered and one was 
hit four times by mortar fire. Men from 
the remaining craft struggled to shore. In- 
tense small arms fire took toll of about 
two-thirds of Company A and more than 
half of the Ranger company before any 
reached the comparative shelter of the sea 



THE SIXTH OF JUNE 



315 



wall or the base of the cliff. Of the six- 
teen tanks scheduled to land in this sector 
just ahead of the infantry, only eight 
survived enemy artillery to reach the 
shore. All had been brought in on LCT's 
as 116th Infantry officers decided the sea 
was too rough to launch the DD's. 

In the eastern part of the 116th Infan- 
try zone the initial landings had not gone 
much better. A 1,000-yard gap separated 
the troops who touched down there from 
the remnants of the two companies on the 
right. The two companies of tanks that 
landed first were brought in on LCT's 
without losses. This initial success was not 
shared by the infantry. Only two of the 
three companies of the 2d Battalion, 
116th Infantry, landed within the regi- 
mental zone. One of these companies lost 
a quarter of its men to enemy fire during 
the forty-five minutes which it took them 
to cross the beach to the protection of the 
shingle bank. The remainder had better 
luck in landing in front and just west of 
les Moulins where the bluff was obscured 
by smoke fires and enemy fire was sporadic 
and inaccurate. Even these men were 
somewhat disorganized and the officers 
who survived with them were confused by 
the knowledge that they had landed east 
of their designated beaches. 

The experience of the 16th Infantry on 
the left flank of the division duplicated 
that of the 116th, as scattered landings 
and heavy casualties left the first boat sec- 
tions incapable of undertaking their pri- 
mary assault missions. In the 16th's zone, 
however, one soft spot was discovered. 
Four boat sections of the 2d Battalion, 
16th Infantry, landing between the St. 
Laurent and Colleville exits, crossed the 
beach with only two casualties from 
enemy fire. The local defense of this sector 



of the beach was the Colleville strong 
point, which was planned as three mutu- 
ally supporting resistance nests. Of these 
the field fortified position atop the bluff 
midway between the two draws was un- 
occupied in February 1944 and seemingly 
remained unoccupied on E> Bay. 70 Ap- 
parent German negligence that left the 
beach northwest of Colleville without im- 
mediate defense was balanced at first by 
Allied ill fortune in landing so few men 
there. Except for those four boat sections 
of the 2d Battalion the first wave of the 
16th Infantry (Companies E and F) 
touched down immediately in front, or 
east, of the occupied fortifications of the 
Colleville strong point and was there 
caught in machine gun fire as intense as 
that which decimated the 1 16th Infantry. 
Many of the men of Company E, hard hit 
and exhausted in their efforts to wade 
ashore, flopped on the sand and crawled 
in ahead of the tide; nearly half of them 
did not survive. Because of the swamping 
of most of the DD tanks and immediate 
enemy destruction of five of the company 
of mediums beached from LCT's, the 
16th Infantry had initially only a third 
of the planned armor support. Those 
tanks available went into action on the 
beach between the St. Laurent and Colle- 
ville exits. 

The heavy losses and disorganization of 
the first wave had repercussions on each 
succeeding wave through the morning of 
D Day. The first serious effect of the fail- 
ure to neutralize enemy beach defenses 
was the inability of the 6th Special Engi- 
neer Brigade and naval demolition parties 
to blow gaps in the beach obstacles as 

70 Ltr, OB WEST, O.Qu. to OKH/Generalquartier- 
meister, 4 Feb 44. OKH/Generalquartiermeister, 
Stuetzpunktbevorratung an der Atlantik- und Kanal- 
kueste. 



THE SIXTH OF JUNE 



317 



planned. Weather conditions also played 
a hand in hindering the engineers from 
accomplishing their mission. Half the 
demolition teams were delayed in land- 
ing and only a third of them touched 
down on their appointed sectors. Since 
the rest were carried eastward by the 
coastal current, the 116th Infantry zone 
received substantially less than the sched- 
uled effort. But enemy fire also took a 
heavy toll of both men and equipment. 
Of sixteen bulldozers only three could be 
put into operation on the beach, and one 
of these was prevented from maneuvering 
freely by riflemen who sheltered behind 
it. So many of the marking buoys and 
poles were lost that only one of the six 
gaps blown by 0700 could be marked. 
Casualties to the engineers amounted to 
about 40 percent for the day and were cer- 
tainly very much higher for the first 
groups ashore. In half an hour after H 
Hour the tide, rising at the rate of about 
four feet an hour, had covered the ob- 
stacles to an extent that made further 
clearance impossible; 71 remnants of the 
engineers joined the infantry behind the 
shingle to wait for the next tide. Fifteen 
officers and men of the demolition parties 
from private to colonel were awarded the 
Distinguished Service Cross for carrying 
out their missions under incredible diffi- 
culties: a colonel had his craft come close 
to shore and directed it under heavy fire 
up and down along the beach so that he 
could observe what had to be done, then 
came ashore, issued new orders to expe- 
dite the clearance, and supervised the 
work under fire; a lieutenant, though 
wounded in the legs while coming ashore, 
refused evacuation, directed his team in 



demolishing the obstacles until the tide 
covered them, and returned to the job 
when the tide permitted and was again 
wounded; an enlisted man operated a 
tankdozer until it was knocked out of ac- 
tion and then crossed the fire-swept beach 
to mount a deserted bulldozer and con- 
tinue his job. 72 

The second group of assault waves, con- 
sisting of five separately timed landings, 
was to complete the build-up of the two as- 
sault regiments by H plus 1 hour and 
bring in the 81st Chemical Battalion, two 
combat engineer battalions whose prin- 
cipal task would be to clear mine fields 
for the advance inland, naval shore fire 
control parties, and advance elements of 
artillery, medical, and antiaircraft units. 
In the' zone of the 1 16th Infantry, the re- 
maining three companies of the 1st Bat- 
talion were to come in behind Company 
A on the right. On the left the heavy 
weapons company of the 2d Battalion 
would land to complete that unit and 
would be followed by the 3d Battalion. 

The right flank, however, continued to 
be an area of particular misfortune. Only 
scattered sections of the reinforcing units 
managed to land there and they were hit 
by the same destructive fire that had vir- 
tually knocked Company A out of the 
battle. The battalion headquarters com- 
pany, including the beachmaster for the 
1st Battalion sector, landed at the base of 
the cliff west of the rifle companies and 
under such severe enemy small arms fire 
that it was unable to move most of the day. 
The heavy weapons company, scattered 
and hard hit on the approach, took two 
hours to assemble survivors. It salvaged 
only three mortars, three machine guns, 



71 About 80 yards of sand would be covered each 
hour. 



72 For a complete list of the DSC winners, see App. 
I, below. 



318 



CROSS-CHANNEL ATTACK 



and a few rounds of ammunition. Only 
one company of the 1st Battalion sur- 
vived as an organized group capable of 
pursuing its assault missions. This was 
Company C, which mislanded 1,000 yards 
east of its planned beach within the area 
of the bluffs covered by the smoke of a 
brush fire. With few casualties and equip- 
ment virtually intact, the company waded 
in on a front of not more than a hundred 
yards and reorganized in the shelter of the 
sea wall. 

Next to land in the 1 16th zone were the 
Rangers. The 5th Ranger Battalion to- 
gether with two companies of the 2d 
Rangers had waited offshore for news of 
the assault on Pointe du Hoe, which 
would determine whether they landed 
there or came in on the 116th Infantry 
zone. The Pointe du Hoe assault, how- 
ever, had been delayed forty minutes by 
the eastward drifting of the craft carrying 
the Rangers. There was therefore no news 
at all, and the Ranger reinforcements, 
concluding that the assault must have 
failed, proceeded with the alternative 
plan. The 5th Ranger Battalion followed 
Company C, 116th Infantry, and shared 
the relatively easy assault in landing too 
far east. But the two companies of the 2d 
Ranger Battalion came in about where 
planned on the fire-swept right flank be- 
hind elements of Companies A and B. 
Only between a third and a half of the two 
65-man companies survived to take shel- 
ter at the head of the beach. 

In the 2d Battalion zone, the second 
wave brought in the heavy weapons com- 
pany and battalion headquarters. Com- 
pany H suffered such losses and disorgan- 
ization that it could be of little immediate 
help in supplying mortar or machine gun 
support. The battalion commander, Maj. 



Sidney V. Bingham, Jr., coming ashore 
near les Moulins, organized a few sections 
of Company F which had landed in the 
first wave and attempted an assault on 
the enemy positions in the draw. 73 The 
attempt made with only a handful of men 
was unsuccessful, but in the meantime the 
3d Battalion was landing bunch